The New York Times made a prominent hire Thursday, bringing in Kevin Draper from Deadspin as a sports business reporter. NYT college sports reporter Marc Tracy announced the news on Twitter, and Draper (seen at left above) confirmed:
Congrats Twitter engage for Deadspin's Kevin Draper @kevinmdraper, the NYT's new sports business reporter!
— marc tracy (@marcatracy) May 4, 2017
This is true. https://t.co/coibgWWufA
— Kevin Draper (@kevinmdraper) May 4, 2017
Hiring Draper is an interesting move for the NYT, and one that could make a lot of sense. Draper’s reporting at Deadspin has earned plenty of praise, especially for his sports media scoops, and the Times hasn’t been doing a ton on that front since Richard Sandomir left the beat in December after 25 years to move to the obituary section. Sports business and sports media beats aren’t identical, of course, but there’s often plenty of overlap between them, and Draper’s sources and knowledge of the media side should be an asset in this new role.
Draper also joins a couple of other prominent Deadspin alums at the Times (although not in sports) in media reporter John Koblin (seen at center above) and David Carr fellow Greg Howard (seen at right above). Both proved their ability to cover sports media at Deadspin, with Koblin breaking tons of stories about ESPN (especially the 2013 layoffs of hundreds of employees) and Howard providing essential coverage of Jason Whitlock’s failed efforts to lead The Undefeated. While sports media news wasn’t the only thing they covered at Deadspin (in particular, Koblin also wrote some great historical features and Howard penned interesting columns on sports, race and culture) and isn’t a key part of their current jobs, the sports media reporting ability both showed at Deadspin was important to their landing at the NYT. And the success both have found in their new roles may have helped further sell NYT execs on Draper.
This might signal a further push into sports business and sports media stories from all sorts of media outlets. The sports business and sports media beat historically hasn’t had too many people on it, but sports media stories appear to be getting more and more traction recently, especially when it comes to prominent moves like the ESPN talent layoffs that were covered everywhere. (And ESPN in general has become a much bigger wide audience talking point in recent years, whether it’s for controversies about their politics or lack thereof or for discussion of their issues in adapting to a world where cord-cutting continues to rise.) Not every sports media story is going to be that interesting to the wider world, and a lot of discussions about carriage disputes and so on are largely inside baseball, but there are a fair bit of sports media and/or sports business stories that have potential to land a wider audience. Having a capable reporter like Draper who can handle those stories certainly should be an advantage for the NYT, and other outlets may follow them.
This is also further proof that the NYT won’t be listening to their public editor’s criticisms of the sports section for having too many features and not enough game recaps for New York teams. The Times has managed to stand out in a crowded sports media landscape by writing interesting features and digging deep into unusual stories, and Draper’s addition should help them do that even more. There are plenty of fascinating stories on the sports business side, and not a ton of people regularly covering them. It will be well worth watching what Draper does here.
[Marc Tracy on Twitter]