By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The NY Times’ sports section is dead. Long live The NY Times’ sports section.

Today’s New York Times sports section, brought to you by The Athletic.

When The New York Times announced earlier this year that it was getting rid of its sports department, a lot of critics assumed that the Times was eliminating sports coverage for anyone who wasn’t subscribing to the Times-owned Athletic, either separately or through an all-access digital subscription. As recently as Monday, Tom Jones of Poynter wrote, “The New York Times sports section is no more. On Monday, as anticipated, it was published for the final time.” That wasn’t how I interpreted the announcement. And it turns out that I was right.

The Times sports department ceased operations on Monday, but the paper’s sports section lives on. Today’s takes up nearly four ad-free pages of the print edition, covering such topics as the University of Colorado football team, the rise of the Baltimore Orioles, greedy Major League Baseball owners seeking taxpayer subsidies for new stadiums, and new uniforms for some NHL teams. The layout of these pages is inventive and attractive. The most significant difference is that each byline is accompanied by “The Athletic.”

Yes, we should lament the downfall of the Times’ own dedicated sports department. To the extent that this can be tied to union-busting, well, shame on the Sulzbergers. But the owners got themselves into a mess with their ill-considered acquisition of The Athletic, and this is their way of amortizing the costs. There was never a chance that they were going to eliminate sports coverage from the paper.

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  1. Jay Griffin

    The word is synergize. Dan you bemoan the death of newspapers as you criticize their attempts at profitability.

  2. Candy Thomson

    Sure, there is something labeled “sports” and it is a section. That’s nothing but packaging. The staff largely has been reassigned. A few remaining reporters are part of business.
    You get great scoops and insight through beat reporting. This is not that.
    Just like the fort in Beau Geste was staffed by propped up corpses, the sham of the “sports” “section” will become apparent as the content becomes less timely and relevant.

    • dkennedy56

      I’m puzzled, Candy. What’s wrong with The Athletic? Its reputation is excellent.

  3. Andre Mayer

    My feeling is that newspaper sports sections make less and less sense as interest in strictly local sports stories fades. If the NYT had still been covering Columbia football, the Millrose Mile, and the NIT, it might be a loss — but not now.

  4. Jack Sullivan

    The NYT Sports Section lost its “must-read” mojo for me a few years ago, focusing on personalities, profiles, helicopter overviews, and fringe (at least in my world) sports, so hopefully The Athletic will bring more to the game, pun intended. One interesting development will be to see if the Times policy prohibiting its writers from participating in awards voting, including HOF elections, will apply since a huge number of Athletic staff are voting members, especially BBWAA. Minor point but worth watching.

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