WHY THE TIMES IS NOT ON THE BEATA note from NY Times sports editor Tom Jolly

The winding backroads after a Saturday night in Huntington always ended with our designated driver making a stop at 3 in the morning at the Bagel Boss next to Woodbury Lanes. This mandatory ritual more than 20 years ago was not just because my buddies and I craved chasing our Budweisers with a buttered bagel right out of the oven. No, it was because I needed my Sunday New York Times right off the press.

 

My love for the Times was never diminished just because the paper dropped the Islanders as a daily beat. I battled, begged and pleaded for as long as I could, then tried to make the best of it. At least once a month in season, I would pitch a story of interest and more times than not the Times would do a feature.

 

In my first three game recaps I mentioned what newspapers covered the game and how the Times did not assign a reporter. I was particularly surprised the paper did not at least send a writer to the Devils’ home opener on Friday and the Islanders’ on Saturday. I took some playful shots, then acknowledged in my report on Monday they won’t be coming to many Islanders games this season.

 

I received the following note from New York Times executive sports editor Tom Jolly today. You have to appreciate his candor and willingness to take the time to explain the Times’ philosophy on coverage:

 

Chris,

 

An acquaintance pointed out your latest blog post about the Times and since it seems to reflect a long-running theme, I thought I’d take the time to try to express our coverage philosophy and emphasize that we do not harbor ill-will toward the Islanders.

 

Our mission is probably unique among daily sports sections these days. With the expansion of our Web site and our integration with the International Herald Tribune, we’ve evolved into an international news organization. Obviously we’re based in New York and still have a substantial readership here, but our national and international audience continues to grow and, in order to serve such a diverse group of readers, we’re focusing more on news and issues that go beyond individual teams.

 

You’ve no doubt seen that we have an active Web page devoted to hockey coverage and I see that your Web site links to our lively Slap Shot blog, evidence of our commitment to the sport. We wrote about Brandon Sugden because of his compelling back story, which we thought would be of interest to a wide swath of readers regardless of his team affiliation. We wrote about Martin Brodeur’s new hockey mask because his switch in gear and the commercialization of his equipment was so unusual and, we hoped, of interest beyond Devils readers. Our story about new Islanders Coach Scott Gordon was less sweeping in meaning, but an example of how we remain committed to important stories involving New York teams.

 

A few years ago, you posed a question on the Islanders Web site that went something like: when did the New York Times turn into a daily Sports Illustrated? I think it’s fair to say that your intent was not particularly complimentary, but I’ve repeated the observation several times because it accurately captures our larger purpose. In an age when game recaps are so readily available via Web sites (including ours) and 24-hour sports networks, our aim is to give our readers coverage that goes beyond results. Don’t get me wrong. Game results are important. But if we are to give our readers coverage that is distinctive from other publications – coverage that matches the big-picture approach of the rest of the paper – we need to deploy our relatively small reporting staff differently than we did when we thought of ourselves as predominantly a New York newspaper.

 

Our coverage continues to evolve in all sports as we look for opportunities to do stories of interest to the most readers, including stories that transcend individual teams and games. In other words, we’re looking for news, features and enterprise stories that cover the breadth of individual leagues, the breadth of sports.

 

I hope this note doesn’t come off as off-putting or give you the sense that I’m offended. I don’t begrudge your comments, nor am I upset by them. I’ll concede I’m a bit baffled because I can’t figure out your purpose in repeatedly making such remarks, but since you’ve made them several times, I thought I’d at least express our view.

 

All the best,
Tom

 

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