Cuts at the Daily News highlight a local news crisis

The cuts at the Daily News came Monday, and they were as bad as anyone expected. Half the editorial staff gone, Editor in Chief Jim Rich and Managing Editor Kristen Lee both out, and a skeleton crew of around 45 journalists left to report on a city of nearly 9 million people.

The villain in yesterday’s story was the faceless corporate behemoth that owns the News, and while executives at Chicago-based Tronc have proven spectacularly unable to grow and support the outlets in their stable of titles, the reality is that the News has been in trouble for years. The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi writes that in 1988, the paper employed 400 journalists and boasted bureaus throughout the city. Its circulation, which peaked around 3 million, is less than a tenth of that today. As Farhi and others noted, New York City—the media capital of the country—is in danger of becoming a local news desert.

RELATED: Who suffers when local news disappears

At the turn of the century, newspapers employed 424,900 journalists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By mid-2016, that number had been cut by more than 50 percent, with just 183,200 newspaper journalists working. Digital publishers have grown, but they haven’t come close to picking up the slack. In New York, the Times has cut back on metro coverage, The Wall Street Journal trimmed its Greater New York section, local website DNAinfo was shut down, and digital upstarts based in the city are more focused on national news than what’s going on in Queens. The result of all this isn’t just that thousands of reporters are out of a job; it’s that the public is worse off.

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At CJR, Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope argues that journalists and those who care about the news need to focus on that second bit if there’s any hope of slowing or reversing the trend. “We need to move away from the arguments that the country should care about laid-off reporters or that the suits should be held to account,” Pope writes. “This can’t be about us.” Instead, we need answers to questions like, “What are the effects on a democracy if local news is no longer in the picture? How is my life as a New Yorker going to be worse now that the Daily News has been so terribly hobbled?”

Daily News opinion editor Josh Greenman provided a tidy answer to that second question in a tweet Monday, noting that the paper, “led the charge to get 9/11 first responders health benefits. Exposed widespread abuse of eviction rules, punishing poor people. Revealed deception and dysfunction in public housing that put kids in danger of lead poisoning. Showed the world the Eric Garner video.”

There will be time to muster outrage over a story that seems like the latest in a local news death spiral, but this morning New Yorkers wake with fewer reporters on the local beat, and that leaves the entire city weakened.

Below, more on the fallout from cuts at the Daily News.

  • Support from the competition: The New York Post’s editorial board calls the cuts at the NYDN bad news for the city. “We sincerely hope the remaining staff can find a way to turn things around. We want to beat the News, but not like this,” the board writes.
  • Undercovering NYC: Politico’s Michael Calderone writes that cuts at the News come “amid growing concerns that New York City, with a population of 8.5 million people, is already underserved when it comes to covering courts, cops and local communities.”
  • Empty seats: NY Post Mets reporter Mike Puma tweeted from last night’s game, “Tonight is the first Mets or Yankees game I have ever covered without a Daily News reporter in attendance. An awful day for New York journalism.”
  • The mayor weighs in: Bill de Blasio tweeted, “It’s no secret that I’ve disagreed with the Daily News from time to time. 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.”

 

Other notable stories

  • President Trump again leveled a false charge against The Washington Post, tweeting on Monday that the paper is a “lobbyist for Amazon” and incorrectly claiming that it “loses a fortune.” The tweets came in response to a critical story about Trump’s frustrations with the lack of progress in denuclearizing North Korea, continuing a trend in which the president lashes out against coverage he doesn’t like.
  • Politico’s Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook report that Trump advisors and staffers have started planning for “life after Sarah,” floating potential successors to press secretary Sarah Sanders. The unofficial shortlist includes several current and former Fox News personalities: Heather Nauert, Bill Hemmer, and Kimberly Guilfoyle. Also on the list, according to Restuccia and Cook, are Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh and White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah. CBS reported in June that Sanders plans to leave her post by the end of the year.
  • For CJR, Rick Paulas examines how neglected journalism archives can lead to the spread of false information. When news outlets don’t update developing stories or correct erroneous early reporting, they allow other outlets to aggregate inaccurate or incomplete information, often in service of a political agenda, Paulas writes.
  • Abby Huntsman, cohost of Fox & Friends Weekend and daughter of President Trump’s ambassador to Russia, is in talks with ABC to join The View, reports HuffPost’s Yashar Ali.
  • Veteran journalist Allison Stewart will host a new show during WNYC’s 12-2pm block, replacing Midday at WNYC, the interim successor to The Leonard Lopate Show. The station says Stewart’s live program will offer “a fresh take on culture, the arts, the news of the day, and how we live in New York and the surrounding region.”
  • R. Kelly is back in the news, which is a good excuse to highlight the excellent reporting that Jim DeRogatis has done on the singer.

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Pete Vernon is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.