Newspapers in New York, Like Their Readers, Are Vanishing
Kenny Hospot is in some ways a typical reader of The Daily News. He’s a construction worker from Queens who’s lived in the city most of his life. He always liked reading the comics and the horoscope in The News.
How long since he last bought a copy of the paper? Hospot laughed. “I would say like 15 years.”
Kamel Brown is another archetypal customer for New York’s Hometown Newspaper, as The Daily News styles itself. He’s a maintenance worker for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He’s 55 years old. He grew up buying the paper for his grandmother in Brooklyn. “When she was finished reading it, I’d pick it up, flip back and start with the sports,” Brown said.
He doesn’t remember the last time he bought it. When he paged through a copy at a friend’s home this past week, he was unimpressed.
Tristan Dominguez, on the other hand, is still a big Daily News fan. “It’s the only place you see anything local,” Dominguez said at a bodega in Washington Heights, where a stack of papers sat behind the counter.
He reads the paper mostly online and through Twitter.
All of this helps explain why there was an air of inevitability about the news Monday that the organization was laying off half its editorial staff.
Once upon a time, The Daily News sold more than 2 million papers a day. Now its circulation is only about a tenth of that, and the paper’s non-hometown owner, the Chicago-based media company Tronc, which bought the paper in 2017, does not have the patience for non-profitability that the prior owner, Mort Zuckerman, did.
At a cultural moment when the very idea of New York City as a hometown is quickly dissolving, and when most people get their news from some sort of glowing screen, the thirst for local ink is not what it used to be.
And those who do crave hard-hitting coverage that holds officials accountable for the state of the city were not pleased to hear about the layoffs.
“You need those old-school people because they know what they’re doing,” Rosanne Nunziata, a manager at the New Apollo Diner in downtown Brooklyn, said of The Daily News’ staff of veteran shoe-leather reporters, many of whom are now pounding the pavement in search of employment. “They know how to sneak in and get their stories, and know how to get witnesses to talk and do their thing.”
The New York Post, The Daily News’ longtime rival for tabloid dominance, has seen its circulation plummet, too. Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns The Post, has long tolerated the paper’s unprofitability, but there may come a time when his successors have far less stomach for red ink.