The latest victim in the local news bloodbath is the 99-year-old Daily News, which today lost half its editorial staff, its editor-in-chief Jim Rich, and its managing editor Kristen Lee. The new editor-in-chief is Robert York, who comes from Tronc property Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Tronc, the publishing behemoth based in Chicago, bought the tabloid last autumn, reportedly for $1 plus liabilities and costs.
The New York Times reports that Tronc executive Grant Whitmore held a minute-long meeting on Monday morning at the paper’s Manhattan newsroom. An email memo to employees followed, explaining that Tronc was “fundamentally restructuring” the media property, reorienting coverage around “breaking news—especially in areas of crime, civil justice, and public responsibility.”
As The New Republic has been reporting for some time, finance-driven consolidated media corporations are bad for local reporting. “Lack of robust local newspaper coverage can have devastating effects,” Alex Shephard wrote in April, depriving constituents of crucial information about, for example, their own elected officials: “Studies have shown that one result of a dip in the number of local news outlets is a decrease in voter turnout.”
The Daily News cuts follow losses in the New York local digital space, as DNAinfo and Gothamist were both killed in the aftermath of a vote to unionize last November. (Gothamist was revived in diminished form under WNYC earlier this year.) Tronc has recognized unions at The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, but the Daily News was not protected by any such labor organization. In the memo, staffers today learned that those laid off would receive 90 days severance pay. Staffers who took the recent buyout package offered by Gizmodo Media Group, by contrast, received 18 weeks of pay and health care—a package negotiated by the Writers’ Guild of America East.