SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue
ESPN The Mag hires Times writer Olney
Published June 9, 2003
ESPN The Magazine has added a dose of substance to its decidedly flashy publication by hiring former New York Times sports reporter Buster Olney.
Olney, who covered the Yankees for four years before taking over as the New York Giants beat writer last season, is returning to his baseball roots as a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He starts today.
The hire runs counter to the image of a publication focused more on heavy graphics and an edgy tone than on serious journalism.
ESPN recently formed an "Enterprise Team" to feature more investigative stories. While Olney is not officially part of that effort, his understated prose belies his new employer's in-your-face approach.
"No matter what the magazine or newspaper, if you generate stuff that people think is interesting, then they'll like it," Olney said. "You can find a niche pretty much anywhere. That's the way I feel about going to ESPN."
Olney first became interested in pursuing other opportunities in early April, when ESPN executive editor and senior vice president John Walsh called. Walsh got him excited, Olney said, about the opportunity to delve into magazine writing and to try his hand at TV, which his new job will include.
ESPN had not made the announcement of Olney's hiring official when SportsBusiness Journal went to press, but an ESPN spokesperson confirmed Olney will be a senior writer and contribute on television and the Web.
That the Times' credibility has been pummeled by the Jayson Blair scandal likely made Olney's decision easier, although he had nothing but good things to say about his former employer.
"I'm going to miss the Times," he said.
The Times is conducting an internal search for a new Giants beat writer and "does not have anything else to report at this time," according to a company spokesman.
In addition to the magazine and television, Olney, who asked and received permission to cover some football for ESPN, also will contribute significantly to espn.com.