The Athletic, one of the sports media industry's most prominent long-form-story websites, has apparently pivoted to a more sports-centric, less politically charged editorial presentation.
Various media entities are reporting that Paul Fichtenbaum — The Athletic's chief content officer, and former managing editor of Sports Illustrated — recently sent a message to The Athletic staffers, discussing the company's updated strategy of emphasizing sports, and minimizing the need for bold political messaging.
Here's a portion of what Fichtenbaum wrote in the all-staff message, courtesy of The Defector:
"We don't want to stop people from having a voice and raising their voice for appropriate issues. But there comes a point where something that is a straightforward, 'Hey, I'm concerned about guns in America,' for instance, right, that's an apolitical statement.
"It becomes political when you say, 'I'm concerned about guns in America and this political party is the reason why we're having an issue,' right? That's when it tips over. So again, we don't want to stop people from having a voice and expressing themselves. We just need to keep it from tipping over into the political space."
According to the same story from The Defector, one staffer from The Athletic didn't see the rationale in pivoting away from injecting political discourse into journalism pieces:
"What about Black Lives Matter? Is that a social cause? Who will write about athlete protests? What about trans athletes in sports?" asked the unnamed staff member.
They added, "Where this policy gets you is that the people who care the most about a particular issue, the people who are most informed about a particular issue, are now the ones who are banned from covering the issue."
A few months ago, The New York Times Company purchased The Athletic for a reported sum of $550 million.
Back in January, GoLocalProv reported the above deal vaulted NYT to the top tier of sports media companies, along with ESPN and CBS Sports.
For its 2016 debut, The Athletic had a limited scope of U.S. and Canada markets for in-depth beat coverage — namely New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto; and now, The Athletic has a sustained presence in every major market, addressing college and pro sports.
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