New York Times Tells Athletic Writers to Stick to Sports

The New York Times purchased The Athletic not long ago, and now according to Laura Wagner at Defectormanagement is asking these writers to stick to sports.

That’s via mandate, as Wagner writes:

In a meeting last week addressing editorial changes including the new mandate, Chief Content Officer Paul Fichtenbaum acknowledged the no-politics policy was a “departure” from previous operating guidelines. He stated that in accordance with the new policy, staff members should not express their political beliefs on social media or any platform. In giving an example about what would count as political, he said:

“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.”

First of all, I’m not sure why this is even a thing now. Why install this rule? Most of the blue checkmark Twitter bitching died down after Trump left office. That was a unique four years because the President went after the media all the time, calling them “fake news” and questioning their integrity and all of that. Tons of media members fired back and the whole thing just turned into a jumbled mess of frothing. Now it’s less hostile overall.

You always have to ask yourself about upside when it comes to these things. What is the upside for a sports writer complaining about politics on Twitter or a corporate suit putting the kibosh on political talk? You gotta think about who you are alienating. Are moderates and conservatives put off by the constant anti-Trump shit? Are liberals cancelling their NYT subscriptions because the muzzle has now been put on Athletic writers? Most of these things turn out to be a net negative in the end.

Plus, most people don’t even know what they’re reading anyway. 50% of our readers think we’re “Libtards” and the other 50% think we’re the Proud Boys, because they’ve already got their minds made up and probably aren’t looking at anything beyond the headline. You could write the most fair, politically neutral thing ever, and somebody is still gonna hit you with the “MAGA douche” or “snowflake” label anyway, because that’s the stupid and ignorant world we’re currently living in.

More important is this thought –

If people don’t want political and social talk from sports writers, it doesn’t mean they don’t care about political and social talk. They just want it from someone else.

It’s like what we discussed with Mike Missanelli veering out of his lane in recent years. People turned on Mike’s show because they wanted to hear sports talk. They turn on Smerconish to hear political talk. In the same way most don’t give a shit about Mike’s thoughts on January 6th, they probably don’t give a shit about which Sixers trade Smerconish would make.

Interestingly enough, I would say that Philadelphia’s group of Athletic writers did the least amount of political hemming and hawing over the years. Derek Bodner would hammer Trump every so often, but Rich Hofmann, Mike O’Connor, Sheil Kapadia, Zach Berman, Charlie O’Connor, and Matt Gelb – I honestly cannot remember one of those guys logging on to say “Impeach the orange bastard.” For the most part, the local crew here kept their heads down and did the stick to sports routine, which was not par for the course from other Athletic writers.

Finally, it’s naive to think that sports and politics and social issues do not intersect. Somebody has to, and should, write about national anthem protests and all of that. Just do it from a fair and balanced perspective and try to be reasonable and it’s all good. Don’t worry about what the five dorks in the Facebook comments say, because they’re not gonna be convinced otherwise and probably can’t read anyway.

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