You may have seen, on Facebook and Twitter, another wave of posts from sportswriters about why they’re joining The Athletic, the new subscription website that has been in several other markets and today announced plans to cover the Carolina Panthers.
Let me tell you why I’m not.
I had an opportunity to join The Athletic, but I’m staying at The News & Observer. There are several reasons, but the most important, and the one that matters most to you as a reader, is this: I still believe in newspapers and the absolutely essential role they play in the life of communities like the Triangle, a role a sports-focused website like The Athletic could never fill.
That’s a point we’ve been trying to drive home lately at The N&O, in this era of “fake news” and the sinister and devious fanning of distrust in traditional media like newspapers. You may have seen the hashtag #readlocal. The reality is newspapers like The N&O cover their communities, hold those in power accountable and tell stories no one else can. And I believe strongly in that – not only from what I do, but how I grew up.
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My grandfather was a sportswriter for the Milwaukee Journal for decades. My grandmother was one of the first female copy editors and writers at the Journal. My aunt, one of their daughters, spent 20 years as a writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. My father read the Chicago Tribune at the breakfast table every single morning, handing me the sports section when he was finished with it. Ink is in my blood, and the spirit that drove me into the press room to watch my first story at my first job come off the press still drives me in a digital age.
If I’m old enough to remember the glory days of newspapers, I’m young enough to live online, to barely remember a world without email, let alone cell phones. I understand that print can no longer sustain this (very resource- and labor-intensive) newsgathering operation, and we have to adapt to an online, digital world. Which is fine. We probably haven’t moved as quickly as we should have, but we’ll get there.
The Athletic started from scratch, online, and doesn’t have those issues – or that tradition. I wish The Athletic the best. More jobs for people in my line of work is a good thing, and a little healthy competition is as well. They have hired some of my really good friends, longtime and valued colleagues and people I don’t know but whose work I deeply respect.
But they can’t do what we do: Cover a community from top to bottom with the kind of depth and analysis you can’t get from two minutes on TV and the expertise your neighbor posting on Nextdoor doesn’t have. There’s a reason newspapers have thrived for hundreds of years: There’s no better way to get a digest of the news than to have it reported, collated and curated by people who know what they’re doing, whether that’s in print or online.
Our methods of delivery may change – we have some new ideas of our own coming soon – and our numbers may dwindle as we adjust to the changing news economy, but our commitment to our craft and our jobs has not and will not.
I believe in that. There’s no better place in the world to be a sports columnist than the Triangle. And I believe in the vital role newspapers play in our communities and in our country. So I’m staying.
So even if you don’t subscribe to the paper, support us by paying for full access to our website. Or support them. Or both. But news isn’t free. In fact, it’s ridiculously expensive to report and create. If you like it, pay to keep it coming. It’s still the best deal out there.