The New York Times said Monday it will disband its sports department and rely on coverage of teams and games from its website The Athletic, both online and in print.
Joe Kahn, the managing editor of The Times, and Monica Drake, deputy managing editor, announced the change to the newsroom as “an evolution in how we cover sports.”
“We plan to focus even more directly on distinctive, high-impact news and enterprise journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society at large,” the editors wrote in an email to The Times editorial board Monday morning. “At the same time, we will reduce editorial coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.”
The closure of the sports desk, which has more than 35 journalists and editors, is a significant change for The Times. The section’s coverage of games, athletes and team owners, and its Sports of the Times column in particular, was once a pillar of American sports journalism. The section covered the most important moments and personalities of the last century of American sports, including Muhammad Ali, the birth of free agency, George Steinbrenner, the Williams sisters, Tiger Woods, steroids in baseball and the deadly effects of concussions in the National Football League. .
The move represents further integration into The Athletic’s newsroom, which The Times bought in January 2022 for $550 million, adding a publication that had about 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams.
The staff of The Athletic will now provide the bulk of the coverage of sporting events, athletes and leagues for Times readers and, for the first time, articles from The Athletic will appear in The Times print newspaper. Online access to The Athletic, which is operated separately from The Times editorial staff, is included for those who subscribe to NYTimes.com.
Journalists on the sports desk will move to other roles in the newsroom and no layoffs were planned, Mr. Kahn and Ms. Drake said. A group on the trading desk will cover money and power in sports, while new beats covering sports will be added to other sections. The moves are expected to be completed by the fall.
When The Times bought The Athletic, executives said the deal would help the company appeal to a wider audience. They’ve added it to a subscription package that includes the Times’ flagship news site as well as Cooking, the Wirecutter product review service and Games.
As a business, The Athletic still has a profit. It reported a loss of $ 7.8 million in the first quarter of this year. But the number of paying subscribers grew to more than three million in March 2023, from just over one million when it was acquired.
Last November, The Times named Steven Ginsberg, managing editor at The Washington Post, the executive editor of The Athletic. In June, The Athletic laid off nearly 20 reporters and moved more than 20 others to new jobs. Its leaders said the outlet will no longer assign at least one beat reporter to each sports team.
The acquisition of The Athletic raised questions about the future of The Times’ sports department, which included many prominent journalists. The Sports of the Times column was started by John Kieran in 1927, and would later include a distinguished group of writers, including Robert Lipsyte, William Rhoden, Harvey Araton, George Vecsey and Ira Berkow.
Three Sports of the Times columnists, Arthur Daley, Red Smith and Dave Anderson, won Pulitzer Prizes for their sports writing. Mr. Daley wrote more than 10,000 columns for The Times over 32 years. (Another sports reporter, John Branch, won Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for his role in a deadly avalanche in Washington State. )
In recent years, with the rise of digital media, The Times’ sports section has begun to downsize, as have many other national and local newspapers. The department lost its independent daily print section. Not every local team got a beat reporter. Box scores are gone.
On Sunday, a group of nearly 30 members of The Times’ sports desk sent a letter to Mr. Kahn and AG Sulzberger, The Times’ publisher, chastising the company for leaving its sports staff “twisting in the wind” since the purchase of The Times. athletic
Mr. Sulzberger and the company’s chief executive, Meredith Kopit Levien, wrote in an email to staff Monday that the company’s goal since acquiring The Athletic was to become a “global leader in sports journalism.”