New York (AFP) – The New York Daily News, the century-old tabloid known for its provocative headlines, made its own news 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 told AFP the cuts represent “nearly 50 percent” 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 layoffs.
The editorial staff will slashed be 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.
Top editors Jim Rich and Kristen Lee are departing as part of the reorganization, 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.”
– State offers help –
Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed dismay that the move came without any notice or request for assistance, 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 reads: “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 purchased the Daily News for $1, while assuming its pension liabilities, after previous owner Mort Zuckerman had been absorbing losses estimated at $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.
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