[Marxism] Populism = profits?
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jan 29 14:32:25 MST 2016
NY Times, Jan. 29 2016
Drop Dead? Not the Newly Relevant Daily News
By JONATHAN MAHLER
On a recent afternoon, Jim Rich, the editor in chief of The Daily News
of New York, sat at his computer playing around with front-page
headlines, a few well-chosen words that would capture the day’s biggest
news: Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump in the Republican
In a few minutes, he had what he thought was a promising candidate:
“CRAZY, STUPID LOVE.”
Mr. Rich walked it out into the newsroom for feedback. The paper’s copy
chief, Jon Blackwell, proposed an alternative: “I’M WITH STUPID!”
“I said, ‘Yes, that’s much better,’” Mr. Rich recalled recently at the
paper’s offices in Lower Manhattan. “That’s a winner.”
A designer set the phrase over a pair of photographs of Mr. Trump and
Ms. Palin, pointing at each other. The image was soon rolling off the
presses in New Jersey and going viral on Facebook and Twitter.
It was the latest in a series of attention-grabbing covers that have
shifted the conversation around the struggling paper. Just a few months
ago, after an aborted sale and sweeping layoffs, The News seemed to have
completed its devolution from the model of a big-city tabloid to a
battered symbol of the diminished state of America’s newspapers. But the
recent string of covers, which were all widely shared on social media,
have sent a very different message — if not about the paper’s long-term
financial prospects, than at least about its continuing cultural relevance.
Put another way, Mr. Rich, a News veteran who took over the paper in
October, seems determined to make sure that the tabloid that famously
shamed President Ford for abandoning New York in its time of need will
at least go down swinging.
“I think that’s fair,” said Mr. Rich, 44, of the characterization. “I
wouldn’t put the accent on ‘going down,’ but we’re swinging.”
William Holiber, the chief executive, who was seated nearby, said, “The
mentality is that we definitely have nothing to lose, so let’s just go
The News has certainly been going for it, most notably with its
provocative front page after December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino,
Calif. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS,” read the headline, accompanied by
screen-grabs of tweets from a variety of conservative politicians
offering “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims. The next
day, the cover of The News identified the head of the National Rifle
Association, Wayne LaPierre, as a terrorist.
Gun control has been an important issue for The News since the massacre
at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and the paper, which has long
identified itself as the voice of New York City’s working class, has a
rich history of championing particular causes. But even by tabloid
standards, this was unusually pointed rhetoric.
Predictably, the News was denounced on the right and celebrated on the
left for the way it chose to frame the story. But whatever one made of
the paper’s San Bernardino covers, they demonstrated that the front-page
headline — “the wood,” in tab-speak — can still pack a punch, even if
most readers are encountering it on their smartphones. Like popular
video clips from Jimmy Fallon or John Oliver, The News’s covers are
finding a new set of viewers on a different platform. The art of tabloid
headline writing may yet outlive the tabloid. (“How The New York Daily
News Became Twitter’s Tabloid,” read a recent headline in New York
“As someone who’s been at this in one form or another for quite a while,
it’s surreal to think that 99 percent of the millions of people who will
look at our Page 1 on a given day will actually never hold the paper in
their hands,” said Mr. Rich.
The news has cooperated with The News’s efforts to attract notice. A
vocal champion of immigrants’ rights, the paper has had a field day with
Mr. Trump — “he makes it easy,” said Mr. Rich — as well as Ted Cruz, who
committed the unpardonable sin of criticizing the city. The candidate’s
attack on Mr. Trump’s “New York values” produced the headline “DROP
DEAD, TED,” alongside an image of the Statue of Liberty raising a middle
finger to Mr. Cruz. Even Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The News’s bitter
tabloid rival, The New York Post, provided good fodder with his recent
engagement to the former supermodel Jerry Hall. “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,”
blared the next day’s front page, with a photo of the couple.
(“Low-hanging fruit,” Mr. Rich said of the Murdoch cover.)
These covers can now reach more people than they ever did on the
newsstand. The problem is that readers don’t have to pay to see them.
For all of the attention The News’s recent front pages have drawn, it’s
unlikely that they — or perhaps anything — can rescue the paper from its
precarious financial position. It’s a familiar story. The News’s
circulation has been plummeting for years; it sits at about 241,000 on
weekdays. It seems far-fetched to imagine that the paper will ever
capture enough digital advertising to offset the declining revenue from
its shrinking print base.
The News, which was founded nearly 100 years ago, loses millions of
dollars a year. When its owner, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, tried to sell the
paper early last year, interest was light. One of the small handful of
prospective buyers was John A. Catsimatidis, a supermarket billionaire
who spent $11 million in a long-shot mayoral campaign two years ago. Six
rumor-soaked months after putting the paper on the market, Mr. Zuckerman
took it off. The layoffs, which claimed dozens of reporters, came soon
after in September.
Newsroom morale seems to have improved somewhat since those dark days.
This is partly a credit to Mr. Rich, whom colleagues describe as
easygoing and accessible. In contrast to the series of British-style
tabloid editors who preceded him, Mr. Rich grew up in a working-class
suburb of New York, reading The News and The Post. He came to the
newspaper business late, after dropping out of Westchester Community
College and working his way through a series of odd jobs, including
installing home alarm systems. He landed at The News as the deputy
Sunday sports editor in 2004 and rose steadily through the paper’s ranks.
Mr. Rich’s predecessor, Colin Myler, the Fleet Street-trained former
editor of News of the World, increased the tabloid’s focus on
celebrities, which succeeded in generating more web traffic but struck
many as a betrayal of the paper’s more high-minded, if populist, legacy.
“We felt we lost who we were to some extent,” said Mr. Holiber, adding
that The News had come too closely to resemble The Post.
Under Mr. Rich, the paper is showing some signs of moving in a new
direction, or rather an old one, returning to its roots as a crusading
tabloid. In October, The News created a new “long-form” reporting and
editing unit largely dedicated to exploring social issues.
And, of course, there are those covers. Whether they represent a
fleeting gift from an unusually generous news cycle, a great tabloid’s
final bloom, or, just maybe, the beginning of a rebirth is anyone’s guess.
“Who knows what’s going to happen in three years,” said Mr. Rich. “We’re
fighting like hell to succeed, and I believe in my heart that we will,
but whether that’s the case or not, we are going to go at this with
everything we’ve got.”
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