Oct 4, 2022 - Economy

Scoop: New York Daily News plots local comeback

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The New York Daily News plans to shift its coverage priorities toward producing more local content about issues impacting New York City, according to a memo sent to staff Tuesday morning by the paper's executive editor Andrew Julien and general manager Michael Gates.

Why it matters: The memo praised the support for its strategy from its new owners, Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund known for cutting journalists at local papers to maximize profits.

  • "For the first time in a while, with strong support from ownership, we have the tools to reverse the gloomy narrative of declining American journalism that too often gets repeated," Julien and Gates wrote.
  • The pair also reaffirmed the company's commitment to its print product, noting, "management of the public company that previously owned our beloved newspaper was planning to shut down the print edition of the newspaper. We will not be doing that."

Catch up quick: The Daily News was once one of the most powerful tabloids in the country and one of the largest newspapers by circulation. Today, it finds itself trying to reemerge from decades of financial trouble at a time when print newspapers face greater challenges than ever before.

In the memo sent to staffers, Julien and Gates praised those recent efforts, writing: "By joining the nationwide trend of newspapers outsourcing production, and by vacating our underutilized facility in Liberty View, we have identified an economically sustainable path that allows us now to make meaningful re-investment in the journalism our readers depend on."

What's next: The company plans to expand the number of pages in its daily print edition by about 16% by adding more local news content (roughly eight additional pages), according to a source familiar with the company's plans.

  • "We’re putting more reporters on the streets, hiring new journalists to join our ranks and re-examining priorities to sharpen our focus on the stories New Yorkers care about," the memo reads.
  • Areas where the company plans to increase its focus include neighborhood-specific coverage of New York City, local housing and real estate, the local education system and schools, and the resurgence of New York's food and entertainment scene in the wake of the pandemic.

The big picture: The Daily News sees an opening to cover its hometown in the wake of a few larger, national publications pulling back in print, sources told Axios.

  • The Wall Street Journal shuttered its Greater New York section last year.
  • The New York Times stopped publishing its Metro section in print at the start of the pandemic.

Yes, but: It's hard to say whether a newfound commitment to local news will help the paper compete for eyeballs, especially amid a resurgence of local digital outlets in the city.

  • The New York Sun relaunched as a digital-only venture in February.
  • The Observer, formerly the New York Observer, relaunched this year.
  • New digital outlets have also launched in recent years to try to fill the void left by national papers. The City launched in 2019 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit digital news platform focused on coverage of New York. A group of public radio stations purchased the assets of Gothamist and revived the local New York digital outlet in 2018.

Between the lines: It's also unclear how much the company actually intends to invest in its newfound local expansion mission, despite the optimistic memo.

  • A spokesperson for the Daily News declined to comment on the financial scope of the company's investment, citing the need for confidentiality due to competition in the local market. 
  • She also declined to comment on the company's current number of employees, newsroom size, and revenue and profitability figures.

Flashback: In August, the New York Daily News union tweeted that 12 journalists, about 20% of the paper's roughly 60-person newsroom, resigned over the summer.

  • A New York Observer report at the time quoted the paper's union chair saying there were just two staff reporters covering crime and general assignment stories throughout New York City.
  • Julien told the New York Post that the paper had already filled a number of positions, but the New York Daily News declined to comment on how many roles had been added.
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