We may be witnessing the beginning of deconstruction in the newsroom – not their destruction but changes that could alter their shape and function.
A week ago, the New York Times announced that it was, to use an Americanism, shuttering its sports department and moving its 35 reporters and editors to other roles. It is handing over responsibility for sports coverage to The Athletic.
The Athletic is a sports website that the New York Times Company bought in January 2022 for $US550 million ($NZ818 million). It has almost 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams and churns out about 150 stories a day. It had over one million subscribers when it was bought, and that number has tripled in 18 months and is trending upward. Nonetheless, it has yet to turn a profit, and in the first quarter of this year lost the equivalent of more than $NZ12 million.
It is unsurprising that the New York Times Company wants to optimise its purchase and cut those losses (it recently laid off 20 staff at The Athletic), but what is surprising is that it has not opted to integrate The Athletic’s staff and stringers into the NYT newsroom but has done the opposite. It has decided to close its sports department and, in effect, to take a service from its subsidiary. That service will provide coverage for the print edition of the Times as well as the parent website.
Sports sections may be well read but they are a notoriously poor destinations for advertising. Here, for example, the Weekend Herald last Saturday had less than half a page of advertising in its sports section and the Stuff metropolitan papers had none. The New York Times has reduced the number of sports pages and it no longer has a stand-alone sports section in the newspaper.
However, what we may be witnessing is not a manifestation of a reduced commitment to sport but a new way of thinking about newsroom structures. Continue reading “Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?”