Back-to-basics sports site The Athletic began, could have ended in Chicago – Chicago Tribune

This latest splash for The Athletic was huge, a veritable cannonball. The addition this week of Fox Sports baseball reporter Ken Rosenthal (no relation) to an already formidable staff of sports journalists was a sit-up-and-notice moment.

But before the quickly expanding subscription website could start to establish its bonafides as a national sports media presence, it had to sell in Chicago. Before it could plant its flag in the San Francisco Bay Area, Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto with localized coverage, it had to show its approach could work here.

The Athletic launched with a modest operation here in Chicago at the beginning of 2016, providing smart and timely news, features and analysis of this city’s sports stars and teams.

More to the point, the experiment — and whatever it has the potential to become or at least be remembered for — very easily could have ended here, too.