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Joining The Athletic ‘worth the risk’ for journalists says former editor

Richard Bowyer 1 The decisions by 12 regional journalists to quit their roles and join sports website The Athletic will prove to be “worth the risk” according to a former daily editor.

Richard Bowyer, who edited Stoke daily The Sentinel and is now a journalism lecturer, says he is hoping for success for those who have “taken the gamble” of working for the site’s new UK operation, which was launched yesterday.

A total of 57 editorial staff were unveiled by the Athletic after a summer of speculation yesterday morning, with 12 recruits moving directly from regional press titles.

They will provide dedicated coverage of every Premier League football club together with some Championship sides, with content available on a subscription-only basis.

Richard, who was deputy editor of The Sentinel for seven years prior to taking the top job at the newspaper, is now a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Derby, which runs a course in football journalism.

In a blog published ahead of yesterday’s announcement,  he addressed the site’s potential impact on the industry, saying regional press bosses would be “pondering if The Athletic can gain a major foothold in the UK by picking up audience

He wrote: “In a way, with the demand for football stories and the growth of football journalism, it is one of the few areas where recruitment seems to be rising. But to leave the relative comfort of their regional newspapers and head for The Athletic is, from an outsider looking in, a gamble.

“Cynics would say that the reported double your money offers may have helped this leap of faith, with the writers said to be on about £37,000 and being offered a nice $75,000 to join their new mates from America.

“Is it worth the risk for a group of well-respected football writers with reasonably comfortable lives at decent newspaper groups to leave for a project effectively in its infancy? I guess the answer is probably ‘yes’.

“Any company worth its salt would sit this project out for at least two to three years, in which time they will have earned what they would have received in six years if they had sat it out in their old jobs.”

Richard concluded: “The question is whether there’s a big enough market of football fans in the UK who will pay for content?

“I hope so for the sake of the journalists who have taken the gamble to join up. Also, for the future of all up and coming football journalists, including those my colleagues and I teach, I hope it’s a success.”

The Financial Times reported yesterday that The Athletic has spent £10m on the UK launch in a bid to attract more than 100,000 subscribers in the UK.

Discussing its US operation, Adam Hansmann, The Athletic’s co-founder and chief operating officer, told the FT: “It’s a pretty contrarian idea that people would pay for sports content when there is so much out there. But fans really took to the model of an ad-free reading experience.”

HTFP has approached The Athletic for a comment.


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  • August 6, 2019 at 10:10 am

    £37k pay on a regional paper?! Well lucky them. But The Athletic is surely showing (well paid) local newspaper managements how they undervalued the worth of their best journalists to the strength of their papers. To succeed in any business, you need the best people, not make them redundant based on job title. Now many local papers are too weakened to make a comeback, only making clickbait to appear well read.

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  • August 6, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Spot on Regional Hack
    and what a shame the replacement at Archant saw fit to mock on Twitter yesterday.

    Jealousy possibly but a sure sign that The Athletic is getting under the skin of the publishers who’ve lost their best premier league staff to this new competitor.

    Stay classy guys

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  • August 6, 2019 at 11:37 am

    I agree with Richard on the theme of ‘good luck and God speed’ to those joining the Athletic.
    I too hope that it succeeds – not just for the journos’ sake – but for the sake of driving up editorial quality and also in the (vain?) hope that it might lead to higher wages for those in sports journalism who remain on provincial papers.
    I’d like to think it might change the mind-cast of editors and directors who seemed to think they were doing journalists a favour letting them report on sport, rather than viewing them as key workers adding value to the paper as experts on a subject so many of their readers were passionate about.

    Without suggesting ivory towers, I would take issue with Richard on a couple of points though:
    He says of sports reporters: “to leave the relative comfort of their regional newspapers and head for The Athletic is, from an outsider looking in, a gamble.”
    and later talks of: “well-respected football writers with reasonably comfortable lives.”

    As someone who was/am a sports journalist, I don’t recognise this life of ‘relative comfort,’ ‘reasonably confortable’ that he speaks of – wages have gone down, relatively, rather than up and there are few people I can think of on in provincial sports journalism these days who feel either comfortable, or secure.
    That links into the claim of sportswriters: “said to be on about £37,000 and being offered a nice $75,000 to join their new mates from America.”

    I don’t know how much the sports journalists were on at The Sentinel but I would suggest that the £37,000 figure is something that nine out of 10 sports journalist could only dream of! In my experience, very few sports journalists’ salaries in provincial journalism started with a ‘3’, and that remains the case today.

    So I say very best of luck to the Athletic,
    I think anyone who is passionate about journalism and cares for its future should hope for the new arrival’s success.
    Most of us spent our working lives loving reporting, despite the poor wages.
    Wouldn’t it be great for the future of journalism if the general experience was loving reporting AND getting paid well?

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  • August 6, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    OK regional sports writers. Hands up anybody who is or was on 37 grand a year.
    Hmm thought so.
    Now hands up anybody on 25 grand or under. That’s more like it.
    Hands up anybody who hasn’t had a pay rise for 10 years.

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  • August 6, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    My once-excellent local JPI rag now fills desperately with pages of non-local sports news and unedited handouts. Don’t editors care any more?
    If this new venture raises standards it will be a blessing. Good luck to them all.

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