Wick Communications

The future of sports coverage

In sports on 26 Oct 2017 at 2:49 pm

In a recent New York Times piece, Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann left no doubt what they are seeking to accomplish at The Athletic. They want to stomp living hell out of newspaper sports sections.

I say, good on them. Best wishes.

My earliest memories of a newspaper revolve around reading Jim Murray columns in the Los Angeles Times. In the early 1990s, I waited impatiently for Tuesday’s USA Today, throwing away all but the sports section so I could focus on the week’s baseball stats and my fantasy team. That was about the time, I made my living writing sports for newspapers. Tonight, I will gladly cover a high school football game. Sports are never far from my heart.

Ideally, I would prefer the local newspapers cover sports the way they once did. Failing that, competition is good and coverage even better. And it’s great to see someone paying talented sports writers what they deserve for being the local experts on what is often the most interesting part of the town.

Two other thoughts about The Athletic and the threat it represents. It’s one thing to make a bet with other people’s money that you can attract enough paid subscribers in Toronto. It’s something else entirely to do so in Benson, Ariz. I don’t see even a hint that The Athletic envisions taking over the kind of granular coverage that is our bread and butter. …

Secondly, this kind of competitive talk is good for the business. Several years ago, when an online competitor cropped up in Half Moon Bay, I told the bosses I was going to kill this interloper with kindness. I was friendly and collegial. I welcomed him to the neighborhood. I asked after his wife. I also said I was going to be absolutely ruthless for 24 hours a day. I pledged there was no way he was getting news we didn’t have and that I would always beat him to the punch. I planned on punching him in the nose (journalistically speaking) every day until he couldn’t take it anymore. And that’s what happened.

It will be interesting to see if The Athletic makes it over the long haul. Perhaps it will cause newspapers in places like San Francisco and Pittsburgh to be better. As a sports fan, I’m all for that.




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