Death of a Local Newspaper

In its 20th-century heyday, the Daily News was one of America’s best-selling newspapers. Its brawny, metro tabloid sensibility emphasized crime and corruption and served as the model for The Daily Planet, the tabloid that counted Clark Kent and Lois Lane among its staffers in the first two Superman movies. The newspaper also produced Pulitzer Prize-winning commentaries and international reporting. It strove to be the New York City paper of record and established WPIX (channel 11 in the city), which has since become the television station known as “New York’s Picture Newspaper”—its call letters were inspired by the Daily News nickname of “New York’s Pictures Everywhere.”

But the newspaper’s fortunes began to decline as people moved away from big cities, newspapers moved online and readers turned to social media for their local news and entertainment fix. The newspaper’s owners, Tribune Publishing, slashed the budget and fired top editors. The Daily News returned to profitability, but its circulation continued to drop, and in 2017 the newspaper was sold for $1 to a Chicago-based media company, Tronc.

The Daily News building, at 220 East 42nd Street near Second Avenue, was designed by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood. It became known as the News Building and straddled the railroad tracks going into Pennsylvania Station. The building was used as the backdrop for many scenes in the first two Superman films. The current newspaper headquarters, at 450 West 33rd Street, which is also known as Manhattan West, is adjacent to the former News Building and houses WPIX-TV.

Andrew Conte takes a searching look at what happens when a local newspaper dies and reveals the societal consequences that follow. His book, Death of a Local Newspaper, would be depressing reading in anyone’s hands but, with his perceptiveness and empathy, Conte narrates this troubling story so that the reader comes away with hope that newspapers can once again provide the vital information citizens need to live in their communities.