Tronc, publishing company and enemy of local news everywhere, sunk its claws into The New York Daily News Monday, laying off half the editorial staff and carving out the heart of local news in the U.S.’s largest city.
Staffers received an unsigned, nameless email from Tronc’s “talent and engagement” team Monday, which included the announcement that the News would cut 50 percent of their editorial staff as part of an effort to “transform the New York Daily News into a truly digitally-focused enterprise.”
“We are… refocusing much of our talent on breaking news — especially in the areas of crime, civil justice, and public responsibility,” the email said. “We will, of course, continue to cover local news, sports and other events, but our approach will evolve as we adapt to our current environment.”
Here's the full email, which also announces that Robert York will be the new EIC pic.twitter.com/Ey0YykyyKi
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) July 23, 2018
As one News reporter told CNN, “Generic from tronc. Perfect — death by faceless hacks.”
Study Hall first reported the impending cuts last week, as well as the fact that editor-in-chief Jim Rich was in the process of resigning or had already quit his post. The nameless email Monday confirmed that Rich “will be departing.”
It is, as Rich tweeted Monday, a good day for people who “hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark.”
If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you.
— Jim Rich (@therealjimrich) July 23, 2018
Rich also changed his Twitter bio Monday from “Daily News Editor-in-Chief” to “Just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction.”
While the News was known nationally for its witty and brash front pages — known as “woods” — mainly used to poke fun at some of the country’s most powerful figures, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and President Trump, the paper made its name locally by breaking vital news and investigating local issues.
On Sunday afternoon, as rumors of the layoffs circulated, the News tweeted a thread of some of its recent work. Among them were stories about the 800 children tainted by lead. The city claimed it was just 19 kids. The News has also reported on the NYPD’s secretive disciplinary system and consistently questioned how the city was dealing with sexual harassment and assault on public transit, among a litany of other important stories, including leading coverage of Eric Garner’s murder at the hands of the NYPD.
Also – the Eric Garner video https://t.co/dFr6Kmpins
— Jennifer Fermino (@jfermino) July 20, 2018
+ @Jill_Jorgensen and @alykatzz making sure Trump didn't get an undue tax break from the city's Department of Finance that he probably would've gotten were it not for their persistence. https://t.co/xnVqqtFBFV
— Sally Goldenberg (@SallyGold) July 23, 2018
The news outlet has 11 Pulitzer prizes to its name.
“Local journalism acts as a fundamental check on power,” the News tweeted. “It attempts to give the disenfranchised in our community a megaphone to amplify injustices that would otherwise be swept under the rug.”
As @harrysiegel writes, "Bad things happen when the mudthrowers outpace the muckrakers."
Local journalism acts as a fundamental check on power. It attempts to give the disenfranchised in our community a megaphone to amplify injustices that would otherwise be swept under the rug. pic.twitter.com/p6UCYIpTeF
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 22, 2018
The Daily News has consistently been among the most fearless papers covering Trump, from his time as a real estate mogul in the city to his presidency today. Recently, on Independence Day, the paper dedicated its wood to the president, calling him “the clown who plays king.”
In an editorial, the News staff wrote that Trump “devotes this nation’s potent energies to barricading the borders, to separating refuge-seeking mothers from children, to ordering parents to leave the country with or without their kids now that a court has ordered their reunion.”
The outlet has, in the past, portrayed Trump as Dr. Evil and described him as “treasonous,” racist, and the anti-Christ.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) March 22, 2017
The mass layoffs at the News is hardly the first time Tronc has slashed editorial operations at local outlets. In April, it laid off dozens of employees at the Los Angeles Times, including former editor-in-chief Lewis D’Vorkin, and in March, the company cut more than a dozen staffers at the Chicago Tribune.
Tronc also fired 20 staffers within months of its Daily News takeover last year, and the paper faced two other rounds of layoffs earlier this year under Tronc’s leadership, in March and in May.
Monday’s layoffs come a little more than eight months after billionaire Trump ally and Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts shut down two local news sites, DNAinfo and Gothamist, after staffers at the two sites voted to unionize. The move put 115 staffers out of work in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
In 2016, The New York Times “reorganized” its Metro section, a move that meant, as then-public editor Liz Spayd wrote at the time, “Fewer stories about individual murders, assaults or routine crimes. Fewer stories about lawsuits and criminal cases, or about legislation wending through Albany. And it will mean fewer stories about fires in the Bronx.”
Later that year, The Wall Street Journal’s Greater New York section ended up on the chopping block, too. In November 2016, the paper announced they would be folding the section into its broader coverage of New York, and 19 employees stood to lose their jobs. They were asked to reapply for 16 open positions.
The News layoffs leave the already desperate New York City with even fewer options to turn to for vital local news. And, as News columnist Harry Siegel wrote Sunday, that dearth of local news has real, scary consequences.
“We know what happens when the state stops investing the time and money to maintain things in part because few reporters, their own industry hurting, are there to keep watch,” Siegel wrote. “People get sick as the rain keeps coming and mold grows behind walls and poison flakes fall. Eventually the roof collapses.”