In a sign of the troubling times that newspapers face to remain afloat, the New York Daily News announced Monday that it was laying off half of its editorial staff in an effort to focus more on digital news.
Staff members were told via email by parent company tronc Inc. that in order “to address the significant financial challenges we have faced for years, we are fundamentally restructuring the Daily News” adding that not only will the staff be slashed in half, but the Daily News will re-focus its talent on breaking news involving “crime, civil justice and public responsibility.”
Additionally, it was also announced that top editor Jim Rich and managing editor Kristen Lee would also depart.
There had been reports that the cuts were coming, and an early-morning tweet from Rich hinted at what was to come.
Rich, whose Twitter bio now reads, “Just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction,” tweeted early Monday morning, “If you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you.”
Leading the publication will now be Robert York, editor of tronc-owned The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He will assume the responsibilities of editor-in-chief effective July 30.
In a statement to Gothamist, which faced its own uncertain future and eventually shuttered only to reemerge once more this year, York said he was not ready to discuss how he intends to lead the paper with 50 percent fewer editorial staff.
“I need to regroup and figure this out because there was a timing sequence to this that's now, not being adhered to, in terms of the announcement," York said.
The New York Daily News was sold to tronc Inc. last year for $1, with the owner of the Chicago Tribune assuming liabilities and debt.
Tronc Inc., based in Chicago, owns the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, and other media operations.
Revenue and print circulation have been sliding at the newspaper for years, even as it provided critical coverage of health issues in public housing and for first responders after the Sept. 11 attacks and even received a prestigious Pulitzer for raising awareness about health issues faced by first responders following the collapse of the Twin Towers.
Revenue slid 22 percent between 2014 and 2016, and the paper had already been letting people go.
The latest restructure of the Daily News’ staff has prompted local politicians to voice their opinions regarding the matter.
“It’s no secret that I’ve disagreed with the Daily News from time to time. But Tronc’s greedy decision to gut the newsroom is bad for government and a disaster for NYC. Tronc should sell the paper to someone committed to local journalism and keeping reporters on the beat,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state is willing to offer help to avert the layoffs, which he said “will undoubtedly devastate many households and hurt an important New York institution and one of our nation's journalism giants.”
"These layoffs were made without notifying the State or asking for assistance. My father, as governor, came to the aid of the New York Post when it was facing difficult financial times. Even though the Post represented an opposing active partisan interest, my father understood the value of a robust free press. So do I,” Cuomo said in a statement.
He further added that he urges Tronc, Inc. to reconsider the move and avert disaster.
"The reporters at the Daily News are some of the very best in the business. I am heartbroken for them today, and for New York," said New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. "We need strong local newspapers to hold those in power to account."