Long-standing track reporter loses job

Dick Patrick, a pre-emninent American reporter on track and field well-known to many members of the British Athletics Writers’ Association, has “been let go” by his employers, USA Today.

“I knew I wouldn’t go on forever, but I didn’t imagine the newspaper industry would be in such dire straits,” Patrick said.

Patrick, 59, had worked for USA Today since 1986, when he was engaged on a three-month trial that straddled three decades. A dedicated runner himself, he is a rarity among American track reporters in covering his beat almost exclusively to all other demands, and in dealing with it as a global sport, rather than as merely a US college sport.

One US track website guesstimates that there remains no more than eight specialists on the principle Olympic sport now working for major newspapers in America, mirroring the cuts in the number of athletics correspondents in Britain since the Beijing Games.

Patrick’s last day in the job was last Thursday. In a report in the Washington Times, Patrick said, “”It was a reduction of force – 37 people between the paper and Sunday magazine.

“The state of the industry is unfathomable. Since ’07, it has been on a fast-forward downward spiral. I can’t believe how rapidly the business has gone down.

“Maybe it won’t necessarily be an end of an era, but I am hoping to find a way to chronicle the people and the sport. I don’t know if there is any viability in newspapers anymore. I do think there are online opportunities.”

Of his 23 years at USA Today, Patrick said, “I never took it for granted. I appreciated every trip, from 1988 and my first Olympics to my last Olympics in Beijing. I knew I wouldn’t go on forever, but I didn’t imagine the newspaper industry would be in such dire straits.”

Click here for more recent articles on journalism, sport and sports journalism

Your SJA subscription is due from JANUARY 1 – click here for details of how to make your payment