>>Marc Tracy, The New York Times
Published: 2020-08-13 11:01:52 BdST
In a move that was almost unthinkable before the coronavirus pandemic, Tribune Publishing said Wednesday that The Daily News, once the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, was permanently closing its physical newsroom at 4 New York Plaza in lower Manhattan. The same day, Tribune, the Chicago newspaper chain that has owned The News since 2017, told employees that it was closing four of its other newspapers’ offices.
“We have determined that we do not need to reopen this office in order to maintain our current operations,” Toni Martinez, a human resources executive at Tribune Publishing, wrote in an email to the staff that was reviewed by The New York Times. “With this announcement, we are also beginning to look at strategic opportunities and alternatives for future occupancy.”
The paper will continue to be published. The company made no promises about a future physical location. “As we progress through the pandemic and as needs change, we will reconsider our need for physical offices,” said a Tribune Publishing spokesman, Max Reinsdorf.
Newspapers across the country have been struggling for more than a decade because of punishing industry trends like the move away from revenue-generating print products and the nationalisation of news. The pandemic, which has sharply squeezed advertising revenue, has added to the publications’ woes.
Workers at The Daily News were given until Oct 30 to collect any belongings they had left in the office, although the email said the newsroom, which still has the distinctive four-faced clock that has migrated with the newspaper over the years, “formally closed” Wednesday.
Robert York, the editor-in-chief, suggested on a call with the staff Wednesday that there would most likely be a future newsroom, according to two participants.
A Tribune Publishing spokesman confirmed that the newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and The Orlando Sentinel in Florida had also closed. This year was the 100th anniversary of The Morning Call’s occupancy of its newsroom on Sixth Street and Linden Street.
Also closing were the newsroom of The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland, and the Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom of The Capital Gazette — a newspaper that two years ago experienced tragedy when a gunman killed five staff members in the newsroom (then in a different building). A Chicago Tribune office for suburban publications in Aurora, Illinois, a city of 200,000 to Chicago’s southwest, was also closed, according to a staff email Wednesday.
These offices had been largely bereft of staff for the past few months because of the pandemic, but the news Wednesday that they were going away for good struck several journalists as a blow.
“We’ve hung all the awards we’ve been given, all the photos of our dead colleagues,” said Danielle Ohl of The Capital Gazette. Recounting the temporary newsroom the staff went to after the shooting and then the new newsroom that was closed Wednesday, she added, “It felt like we finally had somewhere we know we will be, and we can move forward. And now we have to leave again. And not only are we leaving, but we’re leaving with nowhere else to go.”
Jen Sheehan, of The Morning Call, reflected on the coronavirus-imposed status quo. “Nobody wants to be home,” she said. “You get a lot out of being around your co-workers, both personally and how you report. We’re going to lose all of that.”
In its 20th-century heyday, The Daily News was a brawny metro tabloid that thrived when it dug into crime and corruption. It served as a model for The Daily Planet, the paper that counted Clark Kent and Lois Lane among its reporters, and for the tabloid depicted in the 1994 movie “The Paper.” It has won Pulitzer Prizes in commentary, feature writing and even international reporting.
The longtime home of columnists Jimmy Breslin, Dick Young and Liz Smith, The Daily News revelled in its role as the voice of the average New Yorker. Etched into the stone above the entrance of its former home, the Daily News Building on East 42nd Street, is a phrase attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “God must have loved the common man, he made so many of them.”
“The attitude of The News was always: A tabloid is smarter than a broadsheet,” said Michael Daly, who began there as a general-assignment reporter in 1978 and was later a city columnist. “It gets to the essence of things. It doesn’t talk down to people; it talks to them eye to eye.”
In the lobby of The News’ building is a wooden bench. On it is posted an article by Bill Gallo about the bench itself, told in the first person from the bench’s perspective as it prepared to move from The News’ former headquarters on East 42nd Street to another former headquarters on West 33rd Street in 1995. Dick Young, legendary boxing writer Jimmy Cannon and a couple of dozen other Daily News mainstays sat on it through the years, according to the article.
“I just hope they put me in a good spot,” the article concluded. “I’m old now but observant, and I to want to watch the new breed grow to become great newspeople.”
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