[Marxism] Rise and fall of the daily newspaper

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 24 06:44:55 MDT 2018

New Left Review 111, May-June 2018



Who knows whether posterity will not look at old photographs of today’s 
newsstands the way we look at images of ancient libraries, Alexandria or 
Baghdad— stacks of daily papers seeming every bit as peculiar as shelves 
full of papyrus scrolls? [1] Everything suggests that the age of 
information, circulating daily via printed paper, will last no more than 
three centuries, before being filed away as one among the many means by 
which humans have gathered and exchanged news and understanding. The 
daily newspaper was the invention, instrument and symbol of modern 
times: the banner of the rising bourgeoisie and the mould of ‘public 
opinion’. Today, the signs of its decline are everywhere, and first of 
all in the progressive disappearance of its point of sale, the newsstand.

(behind a paywall)


NY Times, July 24, 2018
Newspapers in New York, Like Their Readers, Are Vanishing
By Andy Newman

Kenny Hospot is in some ways a typical reader of The Daily News. He’s a 
construction worker from Queens who’s lived in the city for most of his 
life. He always liked reading the comics and the horoscopes in The News.

How long since he last bought a copy of the paper? Mr. Hospot laughed. 
“I would say like 15 years.”

Kamel Brown is another archetypal customer for New York’s Hometown 
Newspaper, as The Daily News styles itself. He’s a maintenance worker 
for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He’s 55 years old. He 
grew up buying the paper for his grandmother in Brooklyn. “When she was 
finished reading it I’d pick it up, flip back and start with the 
sports,” Mr. Brown said.

He doesn’t remember the last time he bought it. When he paged through a 
copy at a friend’s home last week, he was unimpressed.

Tristan Dominguez, on the other hand, is still a big Daily News fan. 
“It’s the only place you see anything local,” Mr. Dominguez said at a 
bodega in Washington Heights, where a stack of papers sat behind the 

He reads the paper mostly online and through Twitter.

All of this helps explain why there was an air of inevitability about 
the news on Monday that the organization was laying off half its 
editorial staff.

Once upon a time, The Daily News sold more than two million papers a 
day. Now its circulation is only about a tenth of that, and the paper’s 
non-hometown owner, the Chicago-based media company Tronc, which bought 
the paper last year, does not have the patience for non-profitability 
that the prior owner, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, did.

[Read more about why The Daily News laid off half its staff.]

At a cultural moment when the very idea of New York City as a hometown 
is quickly dissolving, and when most people get their news from some 
sort of glowing screen, the thirst for local ink is not what it used to be.

And those who do crave hard-hitting coverage that holds officials 
accountable for the state of the city were not pleased to hear about the 

“You need those old-school people because they know what they’re doing,” 
Rosanne Nunziata, a manager at the New Apollo Diner in Downtown 
Brooklyn, said of The Daily News’s staff of veteran shoe-leather 
reporters, many of whom are now pounding the pavement in search of 
employment. “They know how to sneak in and get their stories, and know 
how to get witnesses to talk and do their thing.”

Mr. Dominguez, 39, said a smaller News staff might affect the city’s 
“awareness of what’s going to happen with the political figures in the 
city and what the police are doing.”

“The issues of people who are fighting landlords and police corruption 
and all these kinds of things tend to be carried more by The Post and 
The Daily News,” he added.

The New York Post, The Daily News’s longtime rival for tabloid 
dominance, has seen its circulation plummet, too. Rupert Murdoch, whose 
News Corporation owns The Post, has long tolerated the paper’s 
unprofitability, but there may come a time when his successors have far 
less stomach for red ink.

The digital landscape for local news media in New York is also 
unsettled. DNAinfo and Gothamist, two popular news sites, were shut down 
last year by their owner, Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD 
Ameritrade. Gothamist has since re-emerged under new ownership, but in a 
less expansive form.

There are, of course, still people who treasure the solidity of 
newsprint. Some of them are even young. Ella Noman, 25, who works in a 
flower shop near the 30th Avenue subway station in Astoria, Queens, said 
she read the store’s copy of The Daily News every day, in part because 
she felt that the news she sees on social media can be unreliable.

“Not everything comes in the internet,” Ms. Noman said. “It goes really 
fast and I can’t find much detail.”

But they are fewer and fewer. Domingo Taveras, 55, who works at the 
Vinmel and Jose Barber Shop on West 110th Street in Manhattan, said he 
missed the days when customers would read the paper while waiting for a 

“Inside this barber shop, nobody reads The Daily News, or any paper at 
all, to be honest,” he said.

That includes Mr. Taveras himself. He gets most of his news from NY1 or 
the occasional copy of The Post he finds lying around. When he reads The 
Daily News, he does so on his phone. (The News installed a paywall on 
its website in February. Readership promptly tanked, The Post gleefully 

Mr. Brown, the M.T.A. maintenance worker, said he had noticed The News 
shift focus to its online content, which is unapologetically heavy on 
sensational out-of-town news.

“I could see the quality of the coverage was diminishing over time,” Mr. 
Brown said as he stood near the Municipal Building in Downtown 
Manhattan. “The recent times that I’ve had the paper in my hands, the 
print, the quality of the paper, it just didn’t look like The Daily News 
that I grew up with.”

Monday’s paper was typical Daily News fare, if thinner than it used to 
be. The cover was an against-the-grain good-news story about a drug 
addict who got clean at Rikers Island: “JAIL SAVED MY LIFE.” The sports 
back cover had the Mets pitching ace Noah Syndergaard, who is sidelined 
with a highly contagious virus, photoshopped into a hazmat suit 

In between were follow-ups about the lead-paint scandal in city public 
housing — a story The News first broke — an update on the Cannibal Cop 
case and a Hometown Hero profile of a police detective who is “busting 
barriers and building bridges in the Bronx.”

But Mr. Brown said he would not be buying the paper anytime soon.

He might still read it if he comes across a copy. Then again, he might not.

“With these recent cuts,” he asked, “is it really a newspaper anymore?”

Follow Andy Newman on Twitter @andylocal

Mariana Alfaro, Tyler Blint-Welsh and Aaron Robertson contributed reporting.

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