‘It feels like the paper died’: Confessions of a New York Daily News staffer
This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →
On Monday, Tronc laid off a half the editorial staff of the New York Daily News, dealing a blow to the city’s stalwart tabloid and to local news in general, and signaled that it would make cuts at its other papers, which include The Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. In our latest anonymous Confessions, we talked to a remaining Daily News editorial staffer who lamented that many news events just won’t get covered as a result. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited.
What was it like when it came down?
We all got emails Sunday afternoon asking us to come in for a 9 a.m. Monday meeting. That sounded alarm bells right away. About five to 9, they told us to check our emails and over the course of two hours, groups of 10 to 15 people got called to meet in various conference rooms — the Bronx conference room, the Staten Island conference room, the Big Apple. The HR rep started to read from the wrong piece of paper, saying, “Unfortunately you’re here today…” and then said, “Sorry, sorry, all your positions are safe.” Some of the people laid off were with the company 25 years, and it was just so disrespectful. So many people deserved a big send-off, and there was no time to even process it. It was traumatic. Everyone was crying. Even if you’re spared, there’s no sense of relief. I was almost disappointed I didn’t get laid off.
Did you get any warning? After all, the paper has lost money for a long time.
Once Tronc acquired us, everyone knew it was bad news, just knowing what they’d done. In Chicago, they’d laid off their photo department. They laid off our payroll staff a couple months ago, so you have to enter your hours manually or you won’t get paid. The newsroom was already barren. We were under no illusion that things were rosy, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be this bad. I don’t know how we’re going to make this work.
How do you understand their new editorial direction?
The only way I can make sense of it is, they keep hammering home the fact that we’re going to be digital-centric. My guess is they’re going to hire a bunch of entry-level reporters and have, like, a content farm — and then charge people for aggregated content? What they’re saying the plan is and what they left us with doesn’t fit. They say they want to have an impact on the community, but they fired their local-news team. They say they want to keep an eye on criminal justice, and they fired the person who covers criminal justice. It feels like the paper died.
What does the city lose as a result of these cuts?
Three years ago, you’d go to a fire and The Wall Street Journal, DNAinfo, would be there, and in the last year or two, it’s only us. If we’re not there covering it, I don’t know who will be. The New York Times is super selective on what they cover. We all joke, you don’t see the New York Post past 92nd Street. It’s these stories that don’t generate a lot of clicks, but they need to be told. It’s a major loss for New Yorkers and the city.
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