NY Daily News halves staff; an ex-reporter, some of my memories

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One of my notebooks, complete with coffee stains! That funny thing in the middle is a stylized early camera, and the News’ logo, as it was once the city’s picture paper…

By Caitlin Kelly

It was, when I worked there in 2005 and 2006, the sixth-largest newspaper in the United States, with 600,000 readers, a real source of pride. Today it’s down to 200,000.

This week its owners Tronc (ugh, what a name) fired half of the Daily News staff — including almost every photographer and sports reporter– insisting their latest gambit will be a focus on breaking news.

Oh yeah, that thing that Twitter already owns…

Some details:

 

Media conglomerate Tronc bought The Daily News in September, adding it to a stable of other newspaper and magazines that includes The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.

The Daily News, once the country’s largest-circulation newspaper, has been among the most aggressive New York City publications in its coverage of President Donald Trump, with the newspaper’s cover often needling Trump about recent scandals or missteps.

The paper has received 11 Pulitzer Prizes including one in 2017 in conjunction with nonprofit investigative organization ProPublica for coverage of evictions based on obscure laws that pushed business owners and residents from their property.

My year at the News was the weirdest, most stressful and eye-opening of my career in journalism — and I’d already worked for the Toronto Globe & Mail and the Montreal Gazette, both broadsheets, a name that denotes the physical size of a newspaper as much as its more sombre approach to news.

The News is a tabloid, a whole new world.

I hadn’t worked in a newsroom in 20 years when I was hired there, thanks to a manager I’d known and worked with in Montreal who came to New York from Chicago to run the paper.

For him, and for me, it was a poor match; he’s British and Canadian and didn’t know the five boroughs of New York City intimately, tribal lore for anyone working at the News. Neither did I.

The paper used to inhabit a gorgeous Art Deco building on 42d Street; I arrived to their offices on the very western end of 33rd Street, sharing a building with the Associated Press.

The newsroom didn’t even have cubicles, just a huge bullpen stretching a full city block, sunlight straggling in through clerestory windows.

I stepped into a 1940s movie, full of guys in suspenders and gold chains who liked to yell at one another and saw two co-workers edge up to a fist-fight over a noisy cellphone.

As my manager-to-be greeted me for my job interview, he eyed my outfit, (no blazer or jacket): “You packing?” My first book was about women and guns.

Never dull!

As a reporter there, I quickly discovered a city I hadn’t known before — the News’ reader’s median household income was $44,000 — maybe a healthy salary elsewhere but not much in New York City.

I drove alone to Harlem and the Bronx and Queens, getting to know its lower-income neighborhoods and residents. (I once got into such an altercation in the Bronx over a street parking spot I had to call the cops in fear of attack.)

I did a stake-out in Midtown in sweltering summer heat and humidity, which meant sitting on the sidewalk for hours — surrounded by all the competing press — waiting to nab an interview with a Quebec tourist who’d been attacked. (I got the assignment after the city editor hollered into the newsroom: “Who speaks French?!”)

I kept sneaking into the hotel to find her, only to be caught and thrown out by a furious security guard. This, after a New York Times reporter followed me into the elevator, guessing I knew where I was going and trying to match it.

I ducked into the ladies’ restroom to ditch him.

I interviewed an African-American family who showed me a blanket with images woven into it of their slain son.

I spoke with legal aid attorneys in the Bronx.

I interviewed the father of a soldier whose helicopter had fallen off a mountaintop in Afghanistan and women soldiers suffering from PTSD.

I broke a national story about how many crimes occur on cruise ships that, for many reasons, go unreported and unaddressed.

We spent a brutal afternoon listening to 911 calls from the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Digital advertising has stripped away newspapers’ primary income stream, and newsgathering — even with crappy salaries — isn’t cheap.

It’s a tough time now to be a staff newspaper reporter.

I’m glad I had the chance.

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “NY Daily News halves staff; an ex-reporter, some of my memories

  1. what a wild and wonderful ride that must have been, even with all the challenges. how lucky that you have lived that firsthand. i’m sad for the loss of the staff of this paper and sad for the loss of journalism as a whole.

    1. It was a terrible place to work (bullied,ignored) but it taught me to report more efficiently and forever changed how I saw NYC — a good thing.

      NYC needs good reporting. Relying on the NY Post and NYTimes is not going to be enough.

  2. I agree – sorry to hear of these losses. And it’s more important than ever for the media to report on that orange person you have there who’s now threatening free speech. I keep thinking that his party will curtail him but they seem to be revelling in it for the most part.

  3. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, What wonderful, vivid pictures you’ve painted! I greatly enjoyed reading this. (I won’t even talk about what’s happening to newspapers – it’s heartbreaking.)

  4. I don’t think people really want to be informed that much anymore. Mostly it’s a matter of who is putting out what any given person wants to hear. I think Maxine Waters is an advocate of lynching and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a stooge. I arrived at this conclusion by reading and watching a number of differently biased sources. I don’t think there are any more unbiased news outlets. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: It’s tampons and pimple cream. You gotta sell some papers and, these days, you don’t do it by giving people what they need or deserve, you do it by giving them what they want, even to the detriment of good journalism.
    I believe in you. I believe you would rather throw your (Figurative) typewriter out the window than write a bit you knew to be false or unfairly slanted in any direction. This makes me think you may want to work on writing a book and some articles for Architectural Digest. The news media, in all its forms, is rapidly becoming a waste of time.

    1. Thanks….

      I would love to be writing another book but no agent has liked the 2 proposals I sent out this year. And the AD editor I met IRL last year never bothered to give me an assignment so…

      I do have some work I’m enjoying, but not enough of it. That’s my challenge these days.

      I suspect you’re right. I’m also sick to death of the same 4 stories that every outlet tries to sell me, as if I hadn’t (???) noticed that almost no one is doing smart and original reporting.

  5. caitlin – hope you are feeling better each day. i recently saw this ted talk sent to me by a friend of mine. the presentation was given by a woman named connie schultz who worked for the plain dealer as a journalist and has become an author. i think you might like it. if the link doesn’t work, just look her up by name and title. (A woman over 50- A life unleashed) I hope you enjoy it –
    https://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=4OD14USi_LE&u=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D97d2P7U1Ukk%26feature%3Dshare

  6. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Sunday links | A Bit More Detail

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