The National Sports Daily
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|Type||Daily sports newspaper|
|Owner(s)||Emilio Azcárraga Milmo|
|Publisher||Peter O. Price|
|Associate editor||Vince Doria|
|Founded||January 31, 1990|
|Ceased publication||June 13, 1991|
|Headquarters||New York, New York|
The National Sports Daily, simply referred to as The National, was a sports-centered newspaper published in the United States beginning on January 31, 1990. The newspaper was published as a tabloid and appeared seven days a week.
The National was an American attempt to emulate the model of several international all-sports publications, such as La Gazzetta dello Sport (Italy), L'Equipe (France), and others. The paper was founded by Mexican-American media mogul Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, who had owned Mexican television conglomerate Televisa and whose family had founded Univision. Azcárraga was also the chief financier for the paper and used the success of the international sports papers as his inspiration for founding The National.
Frank Deford, who at the time was writing for Sports Illustrated and a contributor at National Public Radio, was hired by Azcárraga to be editor in chief despite his inexperience in running a newspaper of any kind. When The National was launched, it featured National Basketball Association superstars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Patrick Ewing on the first cover to represent the Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York media markets (where the paper was initially available). The cover price was 50 cents. Vince Doria, who later became Senior Vice President of ESPN, was the executive editor.
Deford immediately set out to get what was referred to by ESPN's Bill Simmons as a "murderer's row" of sportswriters to join The National. Deford said that hiring Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports editor Van McKenzie away from the paper was the "best thing he did" and was the linchpin for getting many of the writers who eventually signed up to write for The National interested. Once McKenzie was hired, he brought his auto racing writer Ed Hinton and one of his investigative reporters and NFL analysts Chris Mortensen with him. Tony Kornheiser and Norman Chad, both of whom had been writing for the Washington Post at the time, were hired as well, as was New York Daily News writer Mike Lupica, Rocky Mountain News writer Jay Mariotti, Wrestling Observer Newsletter writer Dave Meltzer, Dallas Morning News writer Ivan Maisel, Boston Globe writer Leigh Montville, and various others.
The National used The Wall Street Journal's printing and distribution network to publish separate editions in each time zone. However, this did not help matters. Problems arose almost from day one, as The National was not as widely circulated as expected. For the first few months, where the paper was being rolled out on a market-to-market basis, there was an expected circulation of 250,000 copies a day, eventually hoping to rise to 1,000,000 copies by 2001. The National also did not generate much in the way of advertising revenue as the publishers were unable to secure companies that were able to purchase ad space.
Furthermore, The National was only available at newsstands, supermarkets, bookstores, and various other entities that sold newspapers. Editor-in-chief Frank Deford had tried to institute home delivery but could not due to distribution problems. Deford cited an instance where he had to cancel his potential home delivery account because everyone else on his newspaper route who had ordered The National did so. The Wall Street Journal facilities would often have deliveries leave the distributors at such an early time that The National was often unable to meet deadlines for game results. Also cited were the paper's street boxes not being replenished in certain cities as well as having those same boxes attacked by competing papers' writers with baseball bats. To top it off, major market papers refused to allow The National to run advertising in their publications.
As the year went on the financial state of The National got worse and worse, to the point where the company had tens of millions of dollars cut from its budget as 1991 began. The price of the paper was also raised to 75 cents from 50, which caused the already low circulation to decline- something the owners could not afford to have happen.
Despite a last-ditch effort to start an online distribution through Compuserve, which was one of the earliest Internet providers, the declining circulation was enough for The National to announce it was ceasing publication. On June 13, 1991, The National put out its final issue with its front cover reading "We Had A Ball: The fat lady sings for us."
- Jones, Alex S. "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; The National Sports Daily Closes With Today's Issue," The New York Times, Thursday, June 13, 1991.
- "The National Oral History". Grantland. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
- "The National Oral History". Grantland. 1991-01-31. Retrieved 2011-12-13.