Without sports and without travel, big-city Sunday newspapers are finding it hard to fill the pages of some of their most popular sections during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The New York Times, for one, has decided to move Sports Sunday, typically a separate five- to six-page section, to the A pages. And it is rebranding its Travel section, which can run eight to 10 pages on a typical Sunday, and calling it At Home.
At Home will focus on service journalism pieces like meals to cook, games to play and beauty tips.
“It’s fair to say the Times has sometimes had a difficult time figuring out service journalism,” said Times travel editor Amy Virshup, who will now edit the At Home section. “It’s not something we do naturally.”
But the pandemic has forced most media companies to get creative with how they package content customers want to read and watch. For the Times, it made featuring beautiful, far-flung and, for now, unattainable destinations “inappropriate” for its pages, Virshup said.
The travel desk rethought its coverage, including turning its long-standing 52 Places to Go listing to a 52 places to go virtually. Destination travel coverage will still make an appearance in print throughout the newspaper, including in the new At Home section.
In all, it took 10 days for the newsroom to change course and find “a print home for our best service journalism and a way to guide readers through what is obviously a difficult situation for everybody,” Virshup said.
The changes to both the Travel and Sports Sunday sections will continue for the foreseeable future. The move comes as other news organizations fast track products to meet changing reader behavior and advertiser demand amid the pandemic.
“The extraordinary nature of this moment has driven remarkable changes in our journalism. It has also caused us to rethink the way we produce traditional elements of the news report and, in particular, the structure of the print newspaper,” executive editor Dean Baquet and managing editor Joe Kahn wrote in an email to Times staff earlier this week.