Last month Dianna Russini made waves by leaving ESPN for a new role at The Athletic as a reporter and insider. Even Russini herself admitted the move would come as a surprise for most industry observers. However, it’s clear that The Athletic really wanted her and made a significant financial commitment to bring her aboard. For her part, Russini said she felt somewhat limited in her role at ESPN and was willing to make the jump to try something new.
Russini appeared with Damon Amendolara on CBS Sports Radio where the host congratulated her on her new role with the Athletic. Amendolara was joking about Peter King’s report where he shared that Russini would be “one of the highest-paid writers in the history of the august New York Times company.”
While Russini was complementary of King’s status in the industry and joined in some laughs with DA, she still shared some surprise that King would go out of his way to share just how well she was being compensated in moving to The Athletic.
— Damon Amendolara (@DAonCBS) September 1, 2023
“What is that!? I was like, look, there were some angles in that article that I was a little, felt a little sideswiped. I understand Peter is obviously a legend and has had so much success. I was shocked he went with that angle, but… (laughter) I thought there was a lot more meat on the bone than that. But I understand that in the media in 2023, the line he used about people covering such a popular sport are paid well. I’m not sure where he got all his numbers from, but I can tell you the first thing my husband said after he read that was, ‘did you not share something with me? Are you getting paid a lot more than you were told? That was pretty wild. I hope if anyone had that opportunity listening that read that article that came across it, the takeaway was more this really cool opportunity The Athletic is giving me.”
King interviewed Russini for the piece at NBC Sports, expressing surprise that someone as popular as her on a national television platform would make a move to a company focused on the written word. In case you aren’t aware, print journalism hasn’t been exactly a booming business this millennium. And in that column, King also shared these details, which may have been what caught Russini off guard.
This move doesn’t make traditional journalism sense. To think Dianna Russini will almost certainly make more money than Maggie Haberman or David Brooks—Times legends—and, crazily, might earn more than them combined, is a sign of the strange sports journalism times we live in. Stars who cover the NFL make crazy salaries compared to the money people make covering news that truly matters.
The move does make sense if, as King states elsewhere, Russini can bring in subscriptions and be a source of revenue for The Athletic. But as we’ve seen from other Athletic writers, namely Bob Kravitz, that dependence on subscriptions can be a cutthroat process as well. Regardless of how high her salary is, it seems that Russini and The Athletic are making a big bet on the future success of each other.