The New York Times Sports Section Failed
We can admit when the media spurns the customer
The New York Times sports section finally, officially shuttered, making way for my old employers, The Athletic, to operate under the NYT aegis. That all makes sense because the New York Times bought The Athletic specifically to fill its sports void. If you read the (surprisingly) vast amount of media eulogies to the New York Times sports section, though, you’d hardly get a sense that there was any void to fill. Instead, what happened is depicted as a lamentable tragedy, possibly born out of small-minded corporate callousness. It’s the result of the NYT looking to undermine its unionized “guild” writers. The New York Times sports section, like so many defunct media properties, was superb, flawless even.
Except, that’s not entirely what’s going on. Look, I don’t want to dump on people losing their jobs and being reassigned. I’ve been fired myself, or laid off, depending on interpretation and I don’t see what’s happening as an indictment of any particular individual within these vast institutions.
I also wouldn’t deny that fantastic New York Times sports coverage has existed. Howard Beck, now at the Ringer as an NBA columnist, was one of the best NBA beat reporters ever. The NYT featured excellent articles by Harvey Araton, John Branch, and many others. I especially wouldn’t dismiss the fine contributions of legendary sports writer Robert Lipsyte. Why especially? Because Lipsyte, at age 85, bluntly explained what actually happened here while the rest of sports media pretended not to know. Sure, there’s talk about what was wrong with NYT sports behind the scenes, but only Lipsyte admitted that customers’ wants were rejected, an issue that doesn’t seem to rise to the level of media concern. We’ll get into that.
The Gap Between Media and Customer