NYT veteran Sandomir reflects on sports media business
New York Times obituary writer Richard Sandomir had a visceral reaction when news broke in December that John Skipper shockingly resigned as ESPN’s president. “When that story broke, I almost ran to the other side of the newsroom to volunteer my help,” said Sandomir, who was one of the country’s most influential sports media reporters for more than 25 years.
In the fall of 2016, Sandomir traded in his sports media press credential for a job on the Times obituary desk. In the year-and-a-half that he has written obits, Sandomir cited the Skipper story and its aftermath as the one time he wished he was back on the sports media beat.
Sandomir has been participating in podcasts and news stories to support the release of the paperback edition of his book, “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.” I caught up with him April 10 for a trip down memory lane.
What do you miss about sports media?
Sandomir: Not a whole lot, actually (laughs). I think I expended as much energy as I could over 25 years. One of the things I miss most is talking to announcers. I’ve had occasion to speak to Marv Albert because I talked to him about Craig Sager and John Andariese dying. Some of the people I spoke to in the past are people now I speak to to comment on obituaries.
You wrote so many reviews of sports telecasts during your career. Do you still watch sports with such a trained eye?
Sandomir: I almost instantly returned to my position as a viewer where I can sit and relax without taking notes or without calling one of the network publicists and asking why something is happening. I can cheer for a team now. It didn’t take long to say to myself that I don’t need to take notes or stop the video. I’ve really moved on.
What are you watching?
Sandomir: I spend most of my time on SNY because I watch Mets games all the time. I particularly enjoy watching Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling.
How do you see the state of sports media today?
Sandomir: Things keep marching on. Nothing I’ve been reading has surprised me because I saw the changes from a mostly broadcast world to a cable world. Now, we’re going to a streaming world. I couldn’t have predicted a lot of these things, but none of it surprises me. It’s a natural path of innovation and change.
What’s the state of the sports media beat?
Sandomir: Coverage has dramatically diminished since I started when there must have been 30 or 40 newspapers that had TV sports writers. Most of those are gone and have been replaced by some bloggers. There’s always going to be interest. But in newspapers that are struggling to cover the stuff that they have to, covering sports media and sports business was inevitably a place that they would cut out because it’s not as necessary as another beat.