Media Conglomerate Tronc Slashes Staff of New York Daily News
“Bear with us, today will be difficult.” This is how Grant Whitmore, general manager for media conglomerate Tronc, the parent company of the New York Daily News, began a morning newsroom meeting, HuffPost reported Monday. The very brief meeting was a prelude to an emailed announcement by Tronc that the paper is laying off approximately 50 percent of its newsroom staff.
“We are fundamentally restructuring the Daily News,” said the email, which, according to HuffPost, was unsigned. It continued, “[W]e are reducing today the size of the editorial team by approximately 50 percent and re-focusing much of our talent on breaking news — especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility.”
It was a harsh blow for a staff that had already shrunk to 85 in November 2017, a result of five rounds of previous cuts by Tronc, according to the New York Post.
It was not the first time Tronc, which bought the Daily News in 2017, has decimated the staff of local newspapers. “Over the past several years,” The Daily Beast reports, “Tronc has made sweeping cuts at some of the country’s most famous newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, among others.”
Rumors of the layoffs had been circulating for weeks. Study Hall, a newsletter and listserv for journalists, reported Thursday that up to 70 percent of the newsroom staffers could lose their jobs, and that Editor in Chief Jim Rich was planning to resign in protest. He left Monday, as did Managing Editor Kristen Lee.
While Monday’s cuts fell short of 70 percent, the impact was nonetheless devastating.
“Make no mistake,” a Daily News staff member told The Daily Beast, “this is the death of local journalism in this city.” Another employee continued, “Those who are still there are demoralized and have no desire to be part of what’s left.”
While local newspapers around the country have been subject to similar deep cuts, New York has been particularly hard hit in the last two years.
As Deadline reported in 2016, The New York Times “ended its coverage of restaurants, art galleries, theaters and other commercial and nonprofit businesses in the tri-state region, laying off dozens of longtime contributors and prompting protests from many of the institutions that will be affected.”
The Daily Beast analyzed the Times’ decline in local coverage, reporting that a “check of coverage for the week starting on the last Sunday of January finds that the paper ran 48 metro stories. This is less than half of the [equivalent] tally for 2009 (102) and less than a third of the 153 stories in the same period in 2001 (a figure that doesn’t include metro stories in the additional Sunday suburban sections published then).”
In 2016, The Wall Street Journal also laid off staff of its former New York local news section amid a restructuring and deeper newsroom cuts. In the fall of 2017, billionaire Joe Ricketts shut down Gothamist and DNAinfo New York, two websites with an entirely local New York City focus (not to mention closing the national network of “-ist” and DNAinfo sites) when employees tried to unionize.
According to HuffPost, laid-off Daily News staff members “were told that they’d be paid for 90 days” and “be eligible for transitional benefits after that.” An employee called it “a pretty decent package,” though certainly no replacement for a full-time job, and, for readers, no replacement for dedicated, local coverage.