Layoffs at the New York Daily News have proven worse than the rumors, with about half of its current staff of 85 being let go.
The paper, acquired by Tronc last September, on Monday revealed the cuts in a brief e-mail to staff after numerous reports that the Illinois-based parent company was planning for a 30 percent reduction. Daily News coverage post-layoffs, which is said to include the entire photo department, will focus more on crime, social justice and public responsibility beats, as part of a shift into “a digitally focused enterprise.” It all seemed to strike a chord of bleak irony within the newsroom, which is responsible for breaking a number of high-profile stories in those areas.
Jim Rich, who is being replaced as editor in chief by Pennsylvania’s Morning Call publisher Robert York, wrote Monday morning on Twitter: “If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you.”
Rich also changed his Twitter handle to read: “Just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction.”
Todd Maisel, a Daily News photographer for 18 years, revealed on Twitter he’s no longer with the paper, adding, “God speed to all my colleagues” and that Tronc “made a big mistake.”
The Daily News was first with the Eric Garner story, which set off a new level of conversation and awareness of police violence, and it has been openly critical of the Trump administration. A cover last week featuring Trump read “Open Treason” in response to his comments before, during and after his controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Dean Chang, deputy metro editor at The New York Times, chimed in on Twitter as well, calling the layoffs a “bloodbath.” He added that “Tronc isn’t running this paper as a labor of love or a vanity press. It wants to make money and will cut to the bone to try to do so.”
A number of New York politicians came out against Tronc’s move, too, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling the company out in a statement for effecting the layoffs “without notifying the state or asking for assistance.”
“I understand that large corporations often only see profit and dividends as a bottom line,” Cuomo said. “But in New York, we also calculate loss of an important institution, loss of jobs and the impact on the families affected. I hope Tronc does the same and recalculates its decision. New York State stands ready to help.”
Although often at loggerheads, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are apparently in agreement about Tronc’s move being a bad one, with de Blasio taking a more pointedly disapproving tone.
“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,” he wrote on Twitter. “Tronc should sell the paper to someone committed to local journalism and keeping reporters on a beat.”
While it’s possible that someone could be looking to pick up the Daily News, local journalism is tough to make a profit from, especially since the death of classified ads, which papers too long relied on for revenue. Tronc’s efforts to whittle the Daily News into something extremely lean and profitable by default mirrors what it had started to do with The Los Angeles Times, which was rescued only weeks ago through a purchase by medical industry billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who said he sees the paper as more of a “public trust.” Remaining L.A. Times staff celebrated the sale and its escape from Tronc’s methods.
Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough president, took the toughest stance of all to Tronc’s decision, arguing for some kind of state intervention on behalf of the Daily News.
“We can’t sit back and be totally reliant on over-leveraged media conglomerates or billionaires for what is an essential public service,” Brewer said. “I’m not sure what it would take, but it’s clear that our city and state government need to do more to support local news gathering, reporting and publishing.”
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