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Treatment of UK journalists ‘less than fair’ says Athletic comms chief

Taylor PattersonA director at sports website The Athletic has criticised the UK media industry over what she called the “less than fair” way it treats journalists and editors.

Taylor Patterson, the San Francisco-based website’s director of communications, has also defended past comments made by the company’s founder Alex Mather in which he stated his ambition to “suck dry” the best talent of local newspapers in the USA.

The Athletic officially launched in the UK earlier this month with a 57-strong editorial team – including 12 journalists poached directly from regional press titles.

Taylor, pictured, was taken to task on a previous quote by Alex, made to the New York Times in 2017, in an interview with business media publication Campaign.

Speaking about its US strategy in comments which were later deemed “regrettable” by The Athletic, Alex had told the Times: “We will wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed until we are the last ones standing.

“We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.”

Discussing the quote with Campaign, Taylor said: “Fundamentally, the point he was trying to make was that the traditional media industry in the States, and I believe also in the UK, was a point where it treats its writers and editors and others in a way that’s probably less than fair.”

She added: “I think those remarks are really born out of the frustration of many journalists about the conditions that they have to deal with in the workplace.”

The Athletic operates with a subscription model, and has recruited journalists to cover every Premier League side as well as other leading football clubs in England and Scotland.

Richard Bowyer, former editor of Stoke daily The Sentinel, earlier this month stated his belief that the decision by The Athletic’s new UK recruits to join the title would be “worth the risk.”

However, its approach to the British market has been criticised by Nick Wright, managing director of Havas Media content division Jump.

He told Campaign: “For a brand like this to work, it has to have a very strong brand that shouts ‘football’. It has to be a very strong product that isn’t available anywhere else and it has to grab and sustain its audience.

“The Athletic hasn’t thought about how to take this American model into British culture and it sort of smacks a little bit of that.”


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  • September 3, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Newspaper management has certainly made life tougher for sports writers, as is witnessed by the exodus. Editors in general have under-appreciated the popularity of sport and the quality of a lot of weekly sports pages is embarrassing to the industry.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 9:28 am

    This model will not work in the U.K. The US market conditions are entirely different to the U.K. The obvious differential is that there is no equivalent of the BBC in the US. The Athletic will run out of money in the U.K. within six months.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Took a trial subscription to The Athletic, but don’t intend to take it up permanently. It has strict limitations and is too fixated with the so called elite clubs. For instance, they they carried analysis of a recent match between Preston North End And Sheffield Wednesday, which the home team won. There were screeds of analysis and facts about Wednesday (fair enough) but nothing at all on Preston.
    They had a preview of the recent Kovalev/Yarde title fight, which was still there at least 48 hours after that world title bout had actually taken place.
    For it to have any chance of success it needs to up its game. At least it is playing the game. The regional press is giving up on the game as the exodus of sports writers demonstrates.
    How demoralising it must be for remaining football reporters on some JPI titles, who can’t even see their reports in print the following day because of ridiculously restricted deadlines.
    Many will decide to leave, leading to more unqualified fans with laptops taking their place, always supposing there are any papers remaining and places to fill, that is.

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  • September 3, 2019 at 11:35 am

    It’s all about quality at the end of the day.

    People still by 442 because it’s a good product, good interview and pictures, well designed. People don’t buy local papers as much because they have a user generated image of the back of Cristiano Ronaldo’s head.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 10:41 am

    The reaction of the established media outlets to this invasion is predictable. This isn’t about the ‘Athletic’, it may work, it may not. The more glaring point is, once again, the UK’s traditional publishers are guilty of a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders.

    A string of executive boards have allowed competitors to trample on their turf and have continued to struggle to innovate and combat the threat. Local papers dominated key advertising revenue streams from property to jobs, and let more agile digital companies steal a march and strip it away from them.

    Now competitors are lining up to seize valuable editorial assets as well, and – I bet – many directors are echoing some of the sentiments in this article: ‘it’ll never work, trust me, they’ll come crawling back’. The industry needs to bring in fresh people with the ability to innovate, not just promote from within.

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  • September 4, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    You’re correct @ExNewsdesk pure complacency in the face of new media bringing new threats to established publishers has been a huge part of the downfall of the larger regional press groups in this country.

    Failure to recognise and adapt when the digital revolution began by brushing off the threat as a “passing fad” and falsely believing the monopoly these groups had on local news and advertising would mean people would always buy the papers and advertise their businesses brought about their downfall far quicker than anyone could have imagined.

    Allowing the best people to leave; editors, commercial staff ,experienced journalists and subs, and fooling themselves the cheaper, easier to manage replacements would work as well and for less has hastened the decline even further.

    In the case of losing the best staff to The Athletic, simply moving the deputy up into the senior sports seat is both lazy and foolish, far better to bring in people with knowledge, experience and the ability to produce top quality engaging local sports/football content rather than try to repeat what the outgoing journalists were known for.

    That said the only problem being with no investment and the old titles having lost their audiences who would take the job?

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