Daily News

Erica Brosnan/WCBS 880

New York Daily News Fires Half Its Editorial Staff

July 23, 2018 - 10:46 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Half the editorial staff at the Daily News was fired Monday morning.

Reports at the paper said they were called into a meeting at around 9 a.m. and told about the massive round of layoffs.

As WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reported, the New York Times reported the meeting lasted no more than a minute Monday morning. Daily News staffers learned they will no longer have a job by the end of the day.

The paper’s parent company, Tronc, said in an email that in addition to reducing its editorial team by “approximately 50 percent,” it would also be “refocusing much of our talent on breaking news — especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility,” the Times reported.

Layoffs will happen immediately, but employees will continued to be paid for 90 days. Editor-in-Chief Jim Rich and Managing Editor Kristen Lee will both be leaving.

Earlier in the day, Rich changed his job description on his Twitter page from Daily News Editor-In-Chief to “just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction.”

He also tweeted, “If you hate democracy and think local government should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you.”

On Sunday night, baseball columnist John Harper and general news columnist Peter Botte were seen saying final farewells to other writers at Yankee Stadium, the New York Post reported.

On insider told the Post that “everyone is in a panic.”

Kevin Convey, former editor in chief of the Daily News and now a journalism professor at Quinnipiac University, said the layoffs were tragic.

“My thoughts generally are feeling terribly sad for the people who worked their hearts out to keep the Daily News relevant and vital, and also, frankly, very sad for the city of New York. The city of New York treasures the voice that the Daily News represents, and slowly but surely, it is being silenced, and I think that’s really sad,” he said.

As to the claim from Tronc that the Daily News would be pivoting its focus toward breaking news, Convey noted that the Daily News has always focused on breaking news.

“I mean, my take on it is that it’s, you know, it’s attempting – it’s a fig leaf, basically, because I mean, you guys know as well as I do, what has the Daily News always concentrated on? Breaking news in the area of crime, politics, and civil responsibility,” he said. “So what Tronc is saying is that the Daily News is going to be doing what it has always done, only with half the people. And when you think that the newsroom started the day with 80 people, and now is down to 40 or thereabouts, the idea of 40 people struggling to cover a city of 8.5 million people just beggars the imagination.”

Tronc claimed the restructuring reflects the reality of the business today.

“Print advertising has collapsed, digital advertising has not replaced it, and the only publications that are thriving are those that have paywalls and pay models,” said Crain’s New York Business contributor Greg David.

David said the city is losing something important with a reduction in local news coverage.

“There’s still coverage out there. A lot of it’s in niche sites. But there’s no doubt that New York needs a new outlet covering the important affairs of the city,” he said.

He pointed to some nonprofits in other cities as a possible way forward.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that the layoffs would “undoubtedly devastate many households and hurt an important New York institution and one of our nation's journalism giants.”

Cuomo also noted that the layoffs were made without notifying the state or asking for assistance. He noted that his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, once came to the aid of the New York Post when it was facing financial difficulties.

“Even though the Post represented an opposing active partisan interest, my father understood the value of a robust free press,” Cuomo said in the statement. “So do I.”

Cuomo urged Tronc to “reconsider this drastic move and stand ready to work with them to avert this disaster.”

“I understand that large corporations often only see profit and dividends as a bottom line. 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,” he wrote. “New York State stands ready to help."

Mayor Bill de Blasio also excoriated the layoffs, saying it was a “greedy decision” and was “bad for government and a disaster for NYC.” He urged Tronc to sell the paper.

Convey said the layoffs, though tragic, should be a wake-up call for newspapers that they need to transition to digital – and hurry up about it.

“I think one of the problems that the Daily News faced was that it was very much aligned with its print strategy, and people just aren’t getting their news from print anymore, and the news organizations need to pivot really, really quickly to catering to a digital audience and finding ways to sell digital advertisements, and I think that is the message for, you know, for other newspapers,” he said. “Whatever you’re doing, you’d better do it about 10 times as fast. Otherwise, this is the future, and it’s bleak.”

Tronc bought the Daily News for just $1 last year.