I have received so many emails and calls since the announcement that the New York Times’ sports section will be closed.
It seems like the best thing to do is try to answer many of them at once – and ask for your own reactions and your memories.
From my standpoint, this has been coming on for a long time, since people stopped reading newspapers – a terrible trend for swaths of the country that no longer have the information to cope with government and business and health issues. When I see once-great papers like the Louisville Courier-Journal get Gannetized, my heart breaks.
The sports sections were particularly vulnerable. While I was still working, valued colleagues, particularly sports columnists, began to be disappeared, sometimes en masse.
Fortunately, The New York Times made a lot of good decisions – a web presence, color in the paper, and more valuable news and information about health and safety and cooking.
Perhaps the best business decision was to use the sparkling printing plant in College Point, Queens, to print other newspapers. The Times now prints 60 papers, from dailies to weeklies, news and ethnic. That pays some bills around the paper.
Since I retired at the end of 2011, the Times has flourished around the country and around the world, using other print plants. However, deadlines had to conform, with available press time, which ultimately meant the Times had to stop covering games -- Mets games, Yankee games, Giants games, Jets games, etc.
To its credit, this great paper continued to report and comment about the major issues in sports – brain concussions, how money was made and spent, gender issues, racial issues.
Inevitably, the excitement over the “local” teams was lost. I felt the absence of emotion. Readers felt it.
Speaking for myself, in retirement I had more time to read the paper – the print version, in a blue bag, in my driveway every morning. My friends in the Times printing plant call it “the daily miracle,” and for me, it is.
In recent days, I have been happy to see stars like Linda Greenhouse writing about John Roberts’ Supreme Court, and Michael Kimmelman writing about New York’s perennial albatross, Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. I love to find the great reports from Dan Barry and I love the wit of Vanessa Friedman, writing about style. The Health section every Tuesday sparked my interest in evolution.
But now the sports department is going to be disappeared, while promising new jobs for great editors, great reporters. I hope they appreciate Kurt Streeter, whose most recent Sports of the Times column savaged the pro-gambling baseball commissioner and the owner of the A’s, as they prepare for the A’s to vacate Oakland for Las Vegas.
Readers feel there is a hole in their lives. I can tell you about my sense of loss of the Sports Department – once a bustling clubhouse of colleagues, specialists, who schmoozed and kibitzed across their specific skills. They formed a team.
The Times claims it will find suitable work in the many departments left. My reporter friends are great journalists, who can do anything -- Joe Drape, Jere Longman, John Branch, Ken Belson, Andrew Keh, and so on.
In 2004, at the Summer Olympics in Athens, a demonstration broke out, and Juliet Macur went right toward it, getting tear-gassed but coming back with information. Juliet will be covering the Women’s World Cup of soccer in Australia and New Zealand later this month. She can do anything. So can they all.
But something will be lost – particularly the presence in a sports setting of specialists like Tyler Kepner, the baseball columnist, who has been writing since he put out his own newspaper as a young kid in a Philadelphia suburb. I hope they can find a regular spot for his voice as he explains the goofy doings in his chosen sport.
Meanwhile, the Times has spent a ton of money on a website, The Athletic, which apparently has people everywhere. I have glanced at The Athletic, and I gather it has a few colleagues of mine who used to work in newspapers. But I want to add that a lot of websites have box scores and opinions and transactions.
I will continue to seek out columns by my friend Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post, whom I call “The Last Sports Columnist.” (Did you see her recent masterpiece on Martina and Chris?) For my daily fix of soccer and snark, I will continue to read columnist Barney Ronay and savvy reporters in The Guardian. Local NY sports? Newsday and the Post (even though I try not to ever pay anything to the Murdoch clan.)
I am sure the byline stars from Sports will prosper in other parts of the paper. They are familiar with the style marshals, the wise old elephants in the office, who make sure the paper looks and reads professional. I always liked to watch the faces of colleagues in the pressbox as we dickered with the home office over a comma or a semi-colon.
I appreciate the nostalgia for the Times sports section.
Please feel free to share your opinions, your best memories.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.