Founded in 1919 as the Illustrated Daily News, the New York City-based tabloid newspaper was the first in the United States to be printed in tabloid format. In its heyday it attracted readers with sensational coverage of crime and corruption, as well as lurid photographs and cartoons. The paper also ran Pulitzer Prize-winning political and social commentary and won a Pulitzer for international reporting. Its 20th-century heyday made it an iconic tabloid, the model for the comic book newspaper depicted in the Superman films and for today’s tabloids.
Today the New York Daily News is struggling to survive in a world where local journalism is being disrupted by technology and shuttered by financial pressures. The result is a news desert in many communities, leaving citizens with no access to traditional journalism and little ability to separate fact from fiction. In the southwestern Pennsylvania city of McKeesport, where the local newspaper closed in 2015, residents are finding their own way to make sense of their community and find out what’s happening—for better or for worse.
In the heyday of the Daily News, the paper was a brawny metro tabloid that thrived on crime and scandal. It delved into political wrongdoing and supported isolationism during the early stages of World War II. Its investigative team uncovered the Teapot Dome scandal and social intrigue like Wallis Simpson’s romance with King Edward VIII, all while winning Pulitzer Prizes for editorial writing and photography.
The newspaper was a founding member of the News Media Alliance in 1931 and was a pioneer in using wire service photos. Its staff of photographers was renowned for their skill and eye, including the late William H. Spitz, who was a Daily News staff photographer for five decades and photographed countless celebrities and historical events.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the Daily News has restructured, cut costs and laid off thousands of employees. The current editor, Marc Lacey, has sought to revive the paper with a focus on breaking news and an online presence. He has shifted the editorial policy from a conservative one to a liberal-minded one, and has hired an editor to oversee a major overhaul of its website.
With the upcoming changes to the Daily News and other newspapers owned by Tribune Publishing, a tumultuous time is on the horizon. Employees fear they will be asked to take buyouts or lose their jobs as the paper’s hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital, continues its relentless cost cutting. The company’s summer journalism interns have been hit the hardest, and the pressure on editorial employees is mounting as the newspaper tries to survive. The ruthless cuts could spell the end for the 102-year-old paper. In Death of a Local Newspaper, Andrew Conte brilliantly explores the tragic loss of local newspapers in this timely and insightful book that is both deeply personal and highly accessible to all Americans. This is a must-read for anyone interested in journalism or the future of democracy.