The Athletic comes to town and raids the sports section

While evaporating advertising has decimated newspaper newsrooms around the country, the sports section remains an area where newspapers continue to dominate.

Even sports radio stations have survived only because they’re able to poach newspaper columnists in the Twin Cities, although the almost exclusively maleness and whiteness of the pool remains troubling.

Now, an upstart has moved into the Twin Cities and is presenting a significant threat to the local dailies.

The Athletic, a $40-a-year service (wait for the occasional discount promotions, though) that has operated in six cities in the United States — New York, Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Philadelphia — has now added a seventh: the Twin Cities. It’s also adding other NHL cities, scooping up the top hockey writers in several hockey-crazed cities, following a pattern in which it has been gobbling up local papers’ best analysts.

Today, Michael Russo, the dean of hockey writers in these parts who resigned from the Star Tribune a week ago, announced he’ll be The Athletic’s first Minnesota writer.

My objective remains the same as my previous 22 years covering the NHL: That fans know I’ll work hard and with passion and personality so The Athletic becomes the one-stop shop for all things Wild and hockey news.

But now, I’ll be able to do it without the restraints of a newspaper deadline.

For the first time in my career, I’ll get to actually watch the third period of a hockey game instead of having my head down, pounding the keyboard and missing key happenings because I have to file a story “at the gun.”

I won’t have to constantly look at my watch in the postgame locker room. That should improve the quality of my writing, meaning more analytical postgame columns that’ll provide an inside look rather than “gamers” overrun by play-by-play from a game you’ve already watched.

Trust me, I’ve always considered myself a newspaper man. I started as a paperboy at 11 years old. I grew up in the business, and I’ll always love that medium and the two papers I came from. I’m specifically leaving an incredible paper with unparalleled brand identity, stability, talent and audience size. I’ll always be indebted to the Star Tribune for getting me to where I am today.

The Athletic has been a grand experiment to see if sports fans will pay for quality local sportswriting. They will.

So far, The Athletic has been profitable in only one of its cities, Nieman Lab says: Toronto. But it’s raised nearly $6 million from investors.

It appeals to fans tired of the “old fluff” on the sports pages of newspapers, Bloomberg says.