The advent of computer and online technology has made it difficult for newspapers to continue producing and distributing copies of their printed editions while remaining afloat financially. As you might expect, large companies have often snapped up troubled publications in an effort to expand their firms’ influence far and wide.
One recent example of this situation came on Monday, September 4, when the New York Daily News -- which has been published since 1919 -- was bought by Tronc, a Chicago-based company that produces the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, which resulted in a show of support from a newspaper that has been a long-time competitor to the flamboyant tabloid: the New York Times.
On the day after the purchase, the Times editorial board posted an article entitled “City to the News: Hang in” that recommended “the newspaper hang on to its New York-ness” since The News “still swings for the fences, with jeremiads against political hypocrisy and a renaissance of the sassy front-page headlines that had long been its calling card.”
The board also noted:
By now, it is a cliché to describe The Daily News as the newspaper of New York’s working class. But some clichés come to be because they are essentially true.
For nearly a century, The News has taken on the world with sleeves-rolled-up sensibilities and New York brass, even amid nose-pressed-against-the glass ogling of celebrities that is a staple of tabloid journalism.
The newspaper “was owned for most of its existence by Tribune Publishing, which sold it in 1991 after a bitter strike,” the article stated. “Real estate developer and magazine publisher Mortimer Zuckerman bought it in 1993,” and it gave him “a prominent voice in New York civic affairs.”
“Like most newspapers, The News has struggled in the digital age,” the board stated. “It’s easy to forget how it was once a colossus: New York’s picture newspaper, as it used to call itself, unassailable in a tower on Manhattan’s East Side that was the model for the Daily Planet in Superman movies.”
“At its peak, in 1947, it had a daily circulation of 2.4 million and nearly twice that on Sundays,” the editorial board continued. “Print circulation today has dwindled to the low hundred thousands, and annual losses are believed to be well north of $20 million.”
The article then stated: “When national politicians offered only ‘thoughts and prayers’ and nothing about possible gun regulation after the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., The News’s Page 1 was blunt: ‘God Isn’t Fixing This.’”
“An NBC interview with conspiracy monger Alex Jones inspired ‘Nutwork News,’” the editors noted, and “in 2016, Donald Trump landed on the front page more than once covered in clown makeup.”
“He’s lost the Bozo look as president but not the contumely,” the article explained. “The News greeted his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord with ‘Trump to World: Drop Dead.’”
“As engaged newspaper readers know,” the editorial noted, “that headline paid homage to a News classic from 1975 when it looked as if Washington would let the city fall into bankruptcy: 'Ford to City: Drop Dead.’”
“The newspaper couldn’t refrain from invoking it as well in January 2016, when Senator Ted Cruz sneered at what he called ‘New York values,’” the board stated. “Accompanying an illustration of the Statue of Liberty giving a one-finger salute, the [headline] was ‘Drop Dead, Ted.’”
“Feeling our own way in the digital world,” the board concluded, “we can only wish that brashness remains one New York value that Tronc retains. If you will: ‘Times to News: Stay Bold.’”
Meanwhile, in an article on the sale itself, reporters Sydney Ember and Andrew Ross Sorkin claimed the News was a “nearly 100-year-old tabloid that for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage.”
“And like the rest of the newspaper industry, The News has been battered and bruised by the Internet age,” they reported, “when the equivalent of pithy headlines -- a staple of The News -- come a mile a minute on Twitter.”
“The Chicago Tribune reported on Monday that Tronc purchased The News for just $1, plus the assumption of liabilities,” Sorkin and Ember added.
“The New York Daily News is a venerable New York City institution,” Eric Gertler, co-publisher of the tabloid, said in a statement. “We believe that under Tronc’s leadership, the New York Daily News will maintain its tradition of excellence in journalism and continue to be a critical voice for millions of print and online readers.”
Apparently, the financial condition of newspapers in general and New York City specifically must be dire indeed for a competing publication to bolster the practices of a rival company. Of course, the fact that you’re reading this article online probably has something to do with that.