On Monday, Peter King of NBC Sports devoted part of his weekly Football Morning in America column to Dianna Russini’s somewhat surprising jump from ESPN to The Athletic.
In the column, King notes that Russini will be “one of the highest-paid writers in the history of the august New York Times company.” He details what The Athletic (owned by the Times) is looking for from Russini, saying the company wants her “to be different, to be a subscription magnet, to tell good stories, to be a difference-maker on the NFL beat, and to break some stories.”
Russini also talked about her decision to leave ESPN, and some of her quotes were noteworthy. Russini says that at ESPN, she felt “there was no elevation” for her career and that the company “did not have a vision” for her past her current role.
Here are the full quotes.
“I did walk away,” she said. “It wasn’t a situation where ESPN didn’t want me. I love ESPN. They’ve given me so much opportunity and the people I’ve worked with were incredible. It was a really difficult decision for me, for my family. But it really came down to recognizing at ESPN I wasn’t going to change roles. There was no elevation there for me based on my conversations with the company. They did not have a vision outside of what I currently do. The Athletic, through conversations I had with all the people in charge, just has an endless amount of roles and ideas for me. They want information. They want a storyteller. They want someone with personality. Once I realized they were pretty much handing me over a blank sheet of paper that basically just said go be who you want to be, I realized that this could change my life. The Athletic showed that they value me more than ESPN, for sure.”
It’s an understandable decision from Russini. I’m sure we all go through points in our careers where we seem like we’ve peaked at our current companies. Russini could have stayed at ESPN in the same role doing the same thing, but she’s setting the bar higher for herself. That’s an impressive mindset coming from anyone.
Also in the piece, Russini mentioned that despite joining The Athletic, she doesn’t have a new TV deal and is currently a free agent. King notes we may “see her on the sidelines or in the studio of an NFL rights-holder” in the future, “likely next year.” With CBS and Fox both releasing their NFL broadcaster lineups already and NBC and Prime Video having limited opportunities, Russini biding her time for a role once the 2024 season comes along also seems sensible.