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United States

New York Daily News slashes half its newsroom staff

Paper owners shock staff and city officials with drastic measure to deal with ‘significant financial challenges’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 6:44pm

The New York Daily News, a century-old tabloid known for its provocative headlines, made its own news on Monday by slashing half its editorial staff, in the latest retrenchment in the newspaper sector.

The daily owned by the media conglomerate Tronc said in an email to employees that the move sought to address the newspaper’s “significant financial challenges”.

A source familiar with the matter said the cuts represent “nearly 50 per cent” of newsroom staff.

Tronc declined to comment on the cutbacks or confirm precisely how many staff were affected, but the rival New York Post said the Daily News had some 85 editorial staff before the lay-offs.

The editorial staff will be slashed as the newspaper looks at a fundamental restructuring to focus on breaking news, mainly in areas of “crime, civil justice and public responsibility”, according to the note to staff, which was widely circulated on Twitter.

“The decisions being announced today reflect the realities of our business and the need to adapt to an ever-changing media environment,” the memo said.

The cuts targeted the tabloid’s social media staff, evidenced by its Twitter feed which began posting GIFs and memes that were later deleted. One GIF was of a confused John Travolta character in the film Pulp Fiction. It garnered 8,000 likes and was retweeted more than 2,000 times.

Top editors Jim Rich and Kristen Lee are departing as part of the reorganisation, with the new editor-in-chief Robert York coming from the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Rich said in a tweet on the latest cuts: “If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio denounced the job cuts.

“It’s no secret that I’ve disagreed with the Daily News from time to time,” the mayor said on Twitter.

“But Tronc’s greedy decision to gut the newsroom is bad for government and a disaster for NYC. Tronc should sell the paper to someone committed to local journalism and keeping reporters on the beat.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed dismay that the move came without any notice or request for help, pointing out that his father Mario Cuomo, governor in the 1980s, offered aid to the New York Post under similar circumstances.

“Even though the Post represented an opposing active partisan interest, my father understood the value of a robust free press. So do I,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I urge Tronc to reconsider this drastic move and stand ready to work with them to avert this disaster.”

The newspaper is known for some of the boldest front pages in the industry, including one last week with a cartoon image of President Donald Trump shooting Uncle Sam while holding hands with Russian leader Vladimir Putin below a headline that says: “Open Treason.”

Among its most famous was the “Ford to City: Drop Dead” in 1975 when then president Gerald Ford refused federal aid to stave off the Big Apple’s imminent municipal bankruptcy.

In 2016, it reprised that theme with the headline “Drop Dead, Ted,” after Senator Ted Cruz denounced “New York values” in a Republican presidential primary debate.

But the daily has faced the same financial troubles as much of the newspaper industry. Once among the largest US newspapers, it has fallen behind in the digital age and has failed to keep pace with crosstown rival The New York Times and its newsroom estimated at over 1,000.

In 2017, Tronc bought the Daily News for US$1, while assuming its pension liabilities, after previous owner Mort Zuckerman had been absorbing losses estimated at US$30 million annually.

The Daily News has won 11 Pulitzer Prizes since its founding in 1919, including one last year for its reporting on police abuse of eviction rules to oust poor residents from their homes.

Additional reporting by Associated Press