On Monday, the New York Daily News cut its newsroom staff in half, gutting one of New York City's remaining three daily newspapers. Forty newsroom staffers were dismissed, including editor-in-chief Jim Rich, launching a national conversation on the state of journalism and the industry’s dire financial struggles. (The paper also plans to raise its daily price from $1 to $1.50 on August 6.)
Many New Yorkers, former Daily News staffers, journalists and government officials around the country took to social media to lament the loss of another important journalistic institution, one that's been around since 1919 and has broken countless stories, including the brutal assault of Abner Louima by NYPD officers in 1997 and, earlier this year, the exposure of widespread dangerous levels of lead in public housing.
“This will undoubtedly devastate many households and hurt an important New York institution and one of our nation’s journalism giants,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.
Time Out New York asked reporters, including former Daily News staffers, to share their thoughts on why local news is so important to New York City, the nation and the world. Read their collected thoughts below.
You may know us for our provocative front pages.— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 22, 2018
But there's a reason the Daily News is known as "New York's Hometown Newspaper."
Here are just a few examples why we believe local journalism is so important. #SupportLocalJournalism pic.twitter.com/PGKYemDDpu
Michael Musto, writer
Albert Samaha, criminal justice reporter at BuzzFeed News
"The Village Voice was the third local paper I worked for, and by the time I got there I had a routine for getting to know a new city. The most crucial step was taking veteran reporters out for drinks, to indulge in their institutional knowledge, pick up the lessons and anecdotes passed down from those before them—a long collective story of a place’s good guys, bad guys, traumas and triumphs, chronicled week after week, year after year. You got the sense that a wrongdoer couldn’t run from this relentless journalistic presence. At my first gig, in St. Louis, it was a veteran reporter’s coverage of a neighboring town that sparked my interest in that town’s high school, whose students were nearly all black and whose football team, I discovered, had been unfairly barred from the playoffs thanks to the coaches at opposing, predominantly white, schools who exploited obscure zoning rules that deemed kids who didn’t live at fixed addresses ineligible to play. The opposing coaches stopped filing bullshit complaints after my story. At my second job, in San Francisco, a colleague generously shared a source who tipped me off about police and prosecutors exaggerating evidence of a person’s gang membership in pursuit of harsher sentences; the story led a judge to reverse a teenager’s conviction. By the time I got to the Voice, though, most of the veteran reporters were gone, and the ones who remained would be gone within a month of my arrival. The few of us left had to start from scratch, and there was always more happening out there than we could cover. That growing, invisible list of all we miss is scary as hell."
Lisa Colangelo, staff writer amNewYork, former staff writer at the New York Daily News 1999-2016
"I grew up in Queens reading the Daily News, and by the time I was 10 I knew I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. I was curious about everything going on in my city and my borough—the crime, political scandals, quirky human interest stories and, of course, my beloved Mets. I knew the Daily News would provide that every day. At a time when too much 'news' is generated by content producers sitting at desks, regurgitating information that is already out there, it’s more important than ever to have an aggressive local paper that still sends reporters out on the streets to talk to people, dig through documents and keep an eye on lawmakers and government workers. But it’s also about telling the stories of ordinary New Yorkers and civil servants who also deserve some time in the spotlight. Working there for 18 years was a thrill and an honor. We can never underestimate the importance of covering local news."
Local journalism matters because it keeps public officials from lying pic.twitter.com/3AlT8wV5ZL— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) July 25, 2018
Daniel Johnson-Kim, former New York Daily News director of content
"When I think about why local news matters, I think of the death of Eric Garner. I’ll never forget the evening of July 17, 2014. Eric’s story would have never been told if the NYPD had its way. But because of the unrelenting hunt for the truth by professional local journalists at the New York Daily News, nearly everyone in this city and country knows his name and what it means when you say 'I Can’t Breathe.'
Before it was a hashtag and a T-shirt that NBA players like LeBron and Kobe wore, it was a conversation that Ken Murray overheard on the police scanner while driving through Staten Island headed to an assignment. Then it was a call with Chelsia Rose Marcius to head to Staten Island because something big was going down. And they both called the desk to let them know where they were headed and why.
Murray got a hold of the video of the end of Eric’s life and it was sent to our photo desk. A photo editor watched the clip and I quickly heard gasps and 'What the f#$k!' coming from the desk. Soon, most everyone in the newsroom was gathered around that same desk and observed in horror.
Then we went to work.
Kerry Burke knocked on doors to find Eric’s family and learn the truth about the man who was quickly going viral. Rocco Parascandola reached out to his cop sources. Bill Hutchison was assigned rewrite and I was handed a folder full of screenshots of the end of Eric’s life. Jim Rich, then the executive editor, sketched out a basic design and told me he wanted a sequence of numbered photos and there was no need to write a headline. Eric’s words would be enough: 'I can’t breathe … I can’t breathe.'
We made our deadline as a team.
The 'wood' (front page) on July 18, 2014, was an international story about Vladimir Putin shooting down a passenger airliner. Only one man died in Staten Island and hundreds died on that plane, but I always regretted that we didn’t change the wood to be the story of the NYPD killing of Eric Garner. The Garner spread ran on pages 10-11.
And isn’t that exactly why local journalism is danger? Everyone is focused on trying to cover the world and missing the local stories like Eric’s that have a greater opportunity than ever before in history to be read throughout the world thanks to social media and the web.
Fortunately the next day the Daily News squad came through again. The front page story on July 19, 2014, was an exclusive interview with Eric’s widow, Esaw.
Local journalism is necessary for a democracy to thrive. Sure everyone wants to cover national politics, but it’s the local politics and the local politicians and the local stories that have the greatest effect on citizen’s lives. Without anyone to cover them regularly, corruption, incompetence and dishonesty in government will only get worse."
The city that never sleeps demands a free press that does not blink and the @NYDailyNews and its prized news staff has always fulfilled this critical mission and impossible feat with everything they’ve got. Don’t stop now.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 24, 2018
Spencer Dukoff, former Daily News social media editor and entertainment reporter
"The ultimate responsibility of any journalist is to hold truth to power, and that was the M.O. of any reporter who ever had the privilege of working for the New York Daily News. Without local journalism, corruption festers, leaders lie with impunity, marginalized communities become further marginalized and injustices go unanswered. Good local journalism serves the public interest and balances the scales between the powerful and the powerless.
The Daily News has always prided itself on punching up, sidelining talk of 'civility' and 'good manners' to cut right to the core of an issue. It's a pugnacious attitude that mirrors the spirt of the city we serve. An editor I admire and respect has said that 'everything is local.' Our society is just a bunch of little local communities interacting with one another. We all come from somewhere. Everything is local. And if we don't have a thriving local press staffed with journalists who understand the communities and beats they're dispatched to cover, then we lose a fundamental piece that allows our democracy to function."
In light of what is happening with the @NYDailyNews, we must remember that local journalism matters & is essential to keep those in power in check. Especially with Trump in the White House, we need dedicated journalists & a strong #FreePress.— Sen. Stewart-Cousins (@AndreaSCousins) July 23, 2018