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The New York Times shutting down sports desk in favor of coverage from The Athletic

By Michael P. Hill Article may include affiliate links

The New York Times has announced plans to shut down its sports desk and shift sports reporting under it digital property The Athletic instead, leaders announced Monday, July 17, 2023.

Chairman A.G. Sulzberger and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said there are no layoffs planned.

Those assigned to the Times’ sports desk will move to other parts of the newsroom and provide general interest sports journalism, including exploring how sports connects to business, culture and power structures of sports.

Many of these pieces will focus on enterprise reporting and investigations.

This appears to suggest that NYT sports reporters will not be absorbed by The Athletic.

The Times, which bought The Athletic in January 2022 for $550 million, will instead rely on The Athletic for its day-to-day sports coverage.

That newsroom will take over the sports coverage on the Times’ website, social media and newsletters. It currently produces around 150 original stories each day.

The Athletic, like the Times, keeps much of its content behind a paywall.

Subscriptions to The Athletic sell for $7.99 a month, though introductory rates of around $2 a month are available.

The Times “all access” plan is priced at $25 a month, with an introductory rate of $6 a month for the first year. News-only access is priced at $17 a month ($4 a month for the first year of new subscriptions).

This plan includes access to The Athletic and Wirecutter, the Times’ review and recommendation site that was previously available for free, funded by referral and affiliate revenue.

The Times did not indicate if it plans to change subscription models, though it did acknowledge that its multi-pronged model appears to be working.

While the change does mean some significant changes to sports coverage, it is notable the Times is not planning to cut jobs immediately. Many news outlets have been shrinking staff.

In their memo to staff, Sulzberger and Levien noted that the company has grown both its Athletic and Wirecutter newsrooms by around 500 jobs. The company touts it has added a total of nearly 1,000 journalism jobs in recent years.

Full text of the memo to employees is below.


Joe and Monica just shared with our colleagues in the newsroom plans to shift our approach to sports coverage, focusing more directly on distinctive, high-impact news and enterprise journalism, and making greater use of The Athletic’s journalism for daily sports coverage for our readers.

As part of these changes, we will no longer have a freestanding Sports desk, and current Sports staff will transition to other desks around the newsroom. Many of these colleagues will continue on their new desks to produce the signature general interest journalism about sports — exploring the business, culture and power structures of sports, particularly through enterprising reporting and investigations — for which they are so well known.

There are no plans for layoffs and newsroom leadership will actively work with all our Sports colleagues to ensure they land in the right roles.

We intend to utilize The Athletic — which has among the largest sports newsrooms in the world — to provide Times readers with a greater abundance of sports coverage than ever before. Under our plan, the digital homepage, newsletters, social feeds, the sports landing page and the print section will draw from even more of the approximately 150 stories The Athletic produces each day chronicling leagues, teams and players across the United States and around the globe.

Since the acquisition of The Athletic 18 months ago, our goal has been to become a global leader in sports journalism, which represents a major pillar of our company strategy to be the essential subscription for curious people around the world. The Athletic has expanded on its award-winning, deeply reported coverage of teams, leagues and players to more aggressively cover the biggest, most compelling sports stories of the day for devoted fans everywhere. This journalistic excellence has translated into meaningful growth for The Athletic in terms of audience, revenue and number of subscribers with paid access.

AG and newsroom leadership made this decision after careful deliberation and with deep admiration for our colleagues in Sports. They have long produced some of The Times’s most distinctive journalism — from investigations into urgent topics like concussions and doping, to must-read features on a women’s soccer team in Afghanistan, a tragic avalanche in Washington and much more — and we have no doubt they will continue this tradition from their new desks in the future. Though we know this decision will be disappointing to some, we believe it is the right one for readers and will allow us to maximize the respective strengths of The Times’s and The Athletic’s newsrooms.

Our essential subscription strategy is working, even at a moment of considerable pressure on our industry. By finding new ways to serve readers and their passions, we’ve been able to continue to grow as a company and to add nearly 1,000 journalism jobs in recent years, half of which have been in the Times newsroom and half in The Athletic and Wirecutter newsrooms.

We believe that these plans will put us in an even stronger position to deliver on our mission and serve our readers.

— AG and Meredith