Death of the Daily News

In a tumultuous week, newsrooms of Tribune Publishing, owner of the New York Daily News and other major newspapers, are experiencing a case of the jitters. The Chicago-based newspaper chain is in the process of being sold to a cost-slashing hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, which has amassed nearly one-third of the publicly traded company’s shares and three of its seven board seats. The turmoil has prompted protests, calls for local benefactors to save their publications, and the resignation of several top managers—including the editor in chief of The Daily News.

The Daily News was founded in 1878 and is the oldest college daily newspaper in the country. The newspaper has a rich and diverse history, including a long tradition of investigative journalism and coverage of social issues. It has also served as a training ground for many leading journalists and public figures, including William F. Buckley, Lan Samantha Chang, John Hersey, Joseph Lieberman, Sargent Shriver, and Paul Steiger.

During its golden era of the 1920s, The Daily News found abundant subject matter in political wrongdoing and social intrigue, from government scandals such as the Teapot Dome Scandal to royal gossip such as Wallis Simpson’s romance with King Edward VIII that ultimately led to his abdication. The paper was known for its vivid photographs and its large staff of photographers. In addition, the News established WPIX-TV in 1948 and later a radio station, both of which remain housed in the historic Daily News Building designed by architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood.

The demise of the local newspaper is a story that is playing out in communities across America as technology disrupts newsrooms and creates a widening gap between those who have access to reliable, locally produced information and those without it. The tragedy is not only that a city like McKeesport has lost its newspaper, but that the same fate is likely to befall other communities, and that the consequences of that loss may have profound and unforeseen ramifications.

Andrew Conte’s Death of the Daily News is a smart, perceptive anatomy of what happens when a town loses its newspaper, and an exploration of the many ways in which residents attempt to make sense of their community and separate facts from gossip on their own. In an era when the future of local journalism is being debated, this book offers clues as to the way forward and should be read by anyone interested in the state of the industry. Supremely well written, remarkably insightful, and surprisingly hopeful. A must-read.