By Carol Yost
The parent company for the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune has agreed to be acquired by Alden Global Capital, its largest shareholder—a hedge fund. Tribune Publishing, formerly publicly traded, will now be private; the deal is valued at $630 million in a transaction that is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.
Alden has a history of slashing staffs and is a menace to any newspaper. This isn’t the first time the Daily News has had trouble; in 2018, half its newsroom staff was cut. What is happening to the Daily News is part of the crisis occurring at newsrooms everywhere. At times in the past, the paper came close to going out of business—in 1982 and in the early 1990s.
According to the New York Post, “Alden, a private equity firm, is known as a vicious cost cutter that will take over newspapers and sell off the coveted real estate in downtown cities to finance its debt. In the latest deal, much of the real estate for the seven- newspaper chain has already been sold off.”
National News Guild president Jon Schleuss told the Post, “Alden has a history of running newspapers into the ground. This isn’t good for workers, the company, shareholders or the communities.”
Continues the Post, “Many of the papers that vacated their offices in the face of the pandemic have been told that they will never be returning to a newsroom. That includes the Daily News, the Hartford Courant, the Morning Call in Allentown, PA, and the Capital Gazette, which was the site of a deranged gunman attack in June 2018 that resulted in five people being killed inside the Annapolis, MD, newsroom.”
The Daily News’ New York City office at 4 New York Plaza is being closed permanently, but plans to keep a print edition alive. Currently staffers are working remotely.
Recently, about 70 Daily News employees expressed the desire to unionize with the News Guild, a representative of several other papers in the chain. They have petitioned the Tribune to voluntarily recognize the union as the bargaining agent for the remaining journalists at the tabloid.
Tribune board chairman Philip Franklin, who is also a member of the committee negotiating the sale, tried to defend the deal with Alden as the best available under today’s challenging circumstances, including the impact of COVID-19.
The New York Daily News was founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson as the Illustrated Daily News, and was the first American daily printed in tabloid format. At its peak circulation in 1947, it sold 2.4 million copies a day. It had the slogan “New York’s Picture Newspaper,” and has always had a camera as part of its logo. It later became known as “New York’s Hometown Newspaper,” and at another time, “The Eyes, the Ears, the Honest Voice of New York.” According to Wikipedia, “the Daily News continues to include large and prominent photographs for news, entertainment and sports, as well as intense city news coverage, celebrity gossip, classified ads, comics, a sports section, and an opinion section.” Interestingly, Wikipedia classifies the paper as left-wing. At different times it has endorsed Republican and Democratic candidates for president. It has been quite assertive in denouncing, even ridiculing, Donald Trump, despite objections from some readers.
Staff originally used two-way radios to communicate with the assignment desk, and rode in a fleet of “radio cars.” The paper has featured famous writers on its staff and has won awards for reporting that ripped the lid off citywide corruption.
Alan Feuer of the New York Times cited the News for its “deep sourcing and doorstep reporting; crime reportage and hard-hitting reportage of public issues; speaking to and for the city’s working class; crusades against municipal misconduct.”
If the Daily News is gobbled up by the Alden monster, a unique and important part of New York City history will be gone.