The Demise of the NYDN

There’s been lots of wailing over the fact that the New York Daily News is shedding half its staff. Here’s a selection of its recent front pages:

Apparently nobody wants to pay for this sort of cutting-edge journalism any more. Who would have thought? There is some schadenfreude coming from the right over job losses from journalism in general, mainly because of the utter disdain the media showed to blue-collar folk in the rust belt. “Learn to code” was the flippant remark when someone raised their predicament with the Metropolitan middle classes. Well, off you go then, journalists!

Of course, some writers haven’t quite grasped what’s going on and, being story-tellers, have taken to creating comforting narratives:

It’s a nice story, but as commenter Howard Roark says on Twitter, how an executive class can buy newspapers, ruin them, and make enough money to buy yachts isn’t clear. For my part, I’d say their demise has more to do with the media becoming little more than the propaganda arm of the ruling classes, and modern journalists having no interest in truth or accuracy. The front covers of the NYDN should have served as a warning long before now.

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30 thoughts on “The Demise of the NYDN

  1. Imagine the irony of working in a profession whose entire raison d’etre is to report on “new stuff” and you miss the implications of the invention of the internet, digital cameras, smart phones, cheap telecoms and social media for the “news” industry.

    If any journos are reading this, “sympathy” is a word midway between “shit” and “syphilis” in the dictionary.

  2. There are no journalists left. None of these people go out and investigate any more (let alone investigate objectively). None of them break stories. They’re just keyboard warriors with an opinion. Like me, except I don’t call myself a journalist.

  3. Why is it NYDY and not NYDN?

    Fuckup on my part, corrected now. This is why I don’t own yachts either.

  4. There are no journalists left.

    Indeed, and it’s amusing watching self-described journalists like Oliver Kamm talk of the importance of the profession as if he’s risking life and limb in an authoritarian hell-hole to bring the truth to the masses…and then submits a column containing his feelings about apostrophe use.

  5. I aint so sure that the death of journalism is a recent thing. I do know that the death of the newspapers was due to what used to be in the classified sections of newspapers, is now on t’internet. Many a good journalist will confirm their disappointment when they realised that there well researched and cutting edge article was ignored by the majority of the publications readers who were only buying the paper to find properties for rent, jobs, cars, and whatever.

  6. It all want wrong when they stopped calling themselves ‘reporters’ and took up the term ‘journalist’. Time they got over themselves.

    As Lord Harmsworth said:
    “Journalism – a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand.”

  7. As I have said before here, I used to work in newspapers, though they were gentler times back in my day. There was not much evidence, other than the Daily Worker, of any naked political preferences though gradually the Mirror and Sun soon took sides though equally the Telegraph became less and less ‘conservative’ along with the Times lowering its standards. The whole business was dominated by unions though so perhaps the trend of going left was inevitable, even if a few decades ago the unions were more about getting money for their members (and hence raising their membership fees to the saps who had to be in one) than mere posturing. Once a strike had been averted by a bigger pay cheque, everyone could be happy for a while.

    But the pay cheques became harder to generate. Advertising grew too expensive for the readership ratio, and as the readership aged it began declining by simply dying off. In the 70s we in newspapers could appeal to people on the basis of loyalty to the product and easy availability. However people’s ‘going to work and home ‘ habits changed. There were more and more flexible work times and therefore changed routines became apparent. Yellow lines spreading out prevented motorists from stopping off to buy papers, the news cycles were changed by teletext and rolling news programmes and then the ‘net. What could a paper offer to beat free? As newspapers began to publish more opinions than facts (or rather, opinion masquerading as fact) the loss of interest by the public accelerated. There were fewer older people willing to sit down and read newspapers and those older people didn’t like lecturing from youngsters who knew nothing but dogma. Add to that the increasing immigrant population arriving who had absolutely no loyalty to a British institution like ‘their paper.’ The news for them from ‘back home’ was more vital. Loyalty to them wasn’t us in the UK.

    At my newspapers we would look at the declining sales figures (both readership and advertising) each quarter and as really there was no answer to it, especially when free sheets came along to skim off money, the easiest solution was to trim the product. Fewer editions, less staff, and above all reduced coverage. We even made adjustments to smaller font sizes to help reduce pagination, even though older people would struggle more with five point type instead of say six point. The rock of classified advertising was disappearing with the advent of cheap products that could be easily bought new rather than old, used items ‘swapped’ or traded via small ads. The old ‘Hatch Match and Dispatch’ columns were going because few people saw the need to be part of a public record in print. The size of the papers started shrinking as that meant less input — despite meaning less interest by readers.

    Local issues that sustained much of the interest in many papers were overtaken by ‘international and world news’ especially when it was manufactured sensationalism. A third rate celebrity’s new TV show in the States was deemed to be more interesting than plans to knock down a local landmark because the ‘news’ about a new TV show came in free and the paper didn’t have to send a ‘journalist’ out to find out why some old building was being knocked down. We did reader surveys but when you boiled all the opinions down, everyone simply wanted everything for free. People didn’t have time to read what they got elsewhere free, and they let us know in effect, the game was over.

    The Guardian and papers of that ilk fastened in to lucrative advertising to stay afloat: the more lefty councils there were taking half-page ads for social workers in Haringey the more the Graun could keep going. One of my bosses once said, what would we do if the recruitment advertising we had began to drop off. I said we had to get in on a profession not already covered to get the advertising, but it was already too late then. Teachers, for example, were going to the Times Educational Supplement. Many jobs were going part time with reduced benefits and no one would advertise those much.

    The decline, once it set in, was a toxic combination of change in society, limitations of interest and narrowing opportunities for sales. In the end, the end was coming. Just glad I was able to leave before they booted me out to save money.

  8. I realize Democrats are the prominent party in New York, but does the Post cater to the whole population to maximize their market? It seems that these publications cater to a smaller and smaller percentage of the readers as they become more and more radical. They already have the obvious pressures from the internet, but then make it even worse for themselves by snubbing potential customers. But then again, what the hell do i know? And those covers just look so embarrassing.

    Thanks for the mention. I’m basking in my two minutes of fame. I have 13 more to go.

  9. Yellow lines spreading out prevented motorists from stopping off to buy papers

    Now that’s interesting.

  10. I have been a journalist for the past 20 years, for about half of which I was also a publisher. I can assure you that the life of the hack* is far easier than the life of the publisher.

    I think I have mentioned this before, but perhaps on the other Tim’s site; it is a marvellous time for the hack writer due to the sheer amount of published stuff, even if not so much of that stuff is published in chip wrapper format. If you are not prissy about what you write, then there are outlets crying out for people to produce ‘content’ of all sorts. Actually, one of the problems I had as a publisher was finding good writers. I even offered decent rates.

    There are some very good journalists around, but most of them work in niche areas of business or consumer publishing. There are some good hacks on the nationals but papers devote resources to lifestyle nonsense (to support advertising) and opinion, so rather than good journos breaking news, you get 27 year olds pasting Twatter reactions on to AP stories.

    There is also a distinct difference between Yank hacks and Brit hacks. As far as I can tell all journos on the other side of the pond – even if they work for the Cleveland Advertiser or Buzzfeed – believe they are doing God’s work and should be treated accordingly. Very few British journalists entertain these delusions, except at the more deranged end of the commentariat.

    *I’m writing this in an English garden, having escaped the Asian moistness for a few weeks, which I can do because freelance hackery offers flexibility and decent pay, as long as you’re prepared to work at it and aren’t a complete duffer.

  11. @ HR.
    Not only are those front pages a turnoff for Republicans.
    They are also a turn off for those who regard themselves as sophisticated: which we are asked to believe are the opposition to Trump.
    I don’t think newspapers are there to make money for their proprietors anymore- nowadays they are just mouthpieces for the proprietors’ views. Given the difficulty making money from newspapers these days I guess that’s inevitable.

  12. I don’t know about Britain, but if my experience is typical, one reason newspapers are dying in the U. S. is they’ve become more trouble than they’re worth. I’ve made several attempts to subscribe to each of the two local cage liners. It’s proved impossible to get them delivered consistently. The paper will arrive on Sunday and Monday, not arrive Tuesday, arrive Wednesday, not arrive Thursday and Friday, and so on, various hit-or-miss combinations every week. Since it was being delivered about half the time, I knew the lady could find our house. So what was the problem? No one could explain. They’d just offer to extend my subscription. That was not much help when I wasn’t even getting what I’d already subscribed to. After 2-3 rounds of this, I said the hell with it.

    I might note that both papers had been bought by vulture capitalists. I’m not sure I share your abiding faith in capitalism as a solution to inefficiency.

    The paper where I used to live, the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch, was also bought by vulture capitalists. They immediately shrunk it down to placemat size, with accordingly small print. Then they raised the price—$3 a copy Mon-Fri, $4 Saturday, $5 Sunday. This is 40-50% more than the going price in the region, for a smaller product.

  13. Why would I pay money for the same stuff that political campaigns send me for free?

  14. @Recusant

    It all want wrong when they stopped calling themselves ‘reporters’ and took up the term ‘journalist’. Time they got over themselves.

    You know, there might be something in this.

    @MC

    There are some very good journalists around, but most of them work in niche areas of business or consumer publishing. There are some good hacks on the nationals but papers devote resources to lifestyle nonsense (to support advertising) and opinion, so rather than good journos breaking news, you get 27 year olds pasting Twatter reactions on to AP stories.

    This seem not entirely unrelated to Recusant’s point.

    There’s definitely a shortage of reportage in general-purpose newspapers and news-sites.

  15. @MBE – reporting is expensive, not because journalists are expensive, but in order to research and break news you need a defined patch. For a national newspaper, that’s a lot of patches. Cheaper to hire a handful of clickbait columnists and a few googlers than a team of proper reporters.

    I don’t think calling hacks journalists rather than reporters makes a difference. Journalist just covers a wider range of written stuff. I call myself a journalist because I write stuff for journals. It’s nowt posh. Now, ‘correspondent’ on the other hand…

    @Pogonip – “vulture” capitalists are just trying to make a few quid. Any changes they make will be more dramatic than changes attempted by old school owners or managers simply because the ‘vultures’ aren’t afflicted by sentimentality. Delivery failure sounds a bit shoddy, but many publications founder because subscribers are not prepared to pay the cost of the delivery efficiency they demand. No reason why they should of course, when there’s a website handy.

    Local papers are an interesting case. I suspect a root cause of their failure is that people are not so interested in the local any more. Who cares about what Midshire County Council is doing when you can read about Trump and his Evil etc etc?

    However I think there is still value in local news etc. I think when I retire, I will return to my home town and set up a website devoted to sticking it to the local arms of the state.

  16. “Local papers are an interesting case. I suspect a root cause of their failure is that people are not so interested in the local any more. Who cares about what Midshire County Council is doing when you can read about Trump and his Evil etc etc?”

    What’s killing local news is Facebook groups. They tend to cover a village or a council ward, events coming up, groups that need volunteers, stuff that’s going on, organising petitions etc, but also people highlight things in the town.

  17. I started to explain the difference between vulture capitalism and honest capitalism—yes, there is, or at least can be, such a thing—and got kicked out, so I’ll just suggest examining the career of Henry Ford, and let it go at that.

    Facebook may very well be killing local news. I only used Facebook once, signing up to get an extra 40 points in a video game and then promptly deleting the account. I was on so briefly they didn’t even notice I’d gone.

    Have kids abandoned Facebook yet? I work with a lot of 60-ish women who can’t live without it, which would seem to put off kids. (10 years ago these women couldn’t live without Myspace.). I know mentally ill kids flock to Tumbler, but what about the healthy ones?

    From what little I’ve seen I don’t think Tumbler’s good for its users. What might have been a group therapy turned into a perverse competition of trying to out-crazy each other.

  18. “Yellow lines spreading out prevented motorists from stopping off to buy papers”
    Or indeed, anything.
    Alan Whitehead (head of council, 1980s); “This should drive the motorist out of Southampton once and for all!”
    He was competent and correct. It did.
    Nowadays: “Death of the High Street, what to do?”.
    Sigh.
    In late news: Council complaining about falling rates income.

  19. @MC

    “I don’t think calling hacks journalists rather than reporters makes a difference.”

    You’re probably right. I guess they would just say they are “reporting” on the twitter reaction to some Trump comment that was reported on the wire services…

  20. Where I am kids use Facebook, but generally only to connect to adults. Sports groups, school etc. Also some games for the younger ones.

    They use messenger to talk. Instagram to send photos etc. Snapchat too.

    My kids keep different social circles on different media. It helps keep it clear which apps are for personal and which for information. Facebook is barely used.

  21. I’m not sure I share your abiding faith in capitalism as a solution to inefficiency.

    Good grief, have you read my opinions on large corporations?!

  22. I don’t think newspapers are there to make money for their proprietors anymore- nowadays they are just mouthpieces for the proprietors’ views.

    Yeah, the ZMan said in one of his podcasts that with Carlos Slim owning the NYT, Jeff Bezos the WP, and the Koch Bros looking to acquire one of the others they’ve basically become vehicles for advancing their proprietors’ interests.

  23. They are also a turn off for those who regard themselves as sophisticated: which we are asked to believe are the opposition to Trump.

    Exactly. The Sun can get away with it because it appeals to the working classes who don’t consider themselves sophisticates. Running anti-Trump propaganda in tabloid format doesn’t make sense when those who are anti-Trump consider tabloids to be beneath them.

  24. Have kids abandoned Facebook yet?

    I heard they did years ago, it’s all Instagram and SnapChat now.

  25. That reminds me. A kid who was getting an MFA, which has something to do with writing, wrote an article recounting how she was told if she ever wanted any books published, she would have to have an Instagram account. I looked up Instagram and it’s for posting pictures.

    ??? To her it was self-explanatory, but not to me. Why would you have to post pictures to a particular site to get your book published? Anybody?

  26. Great comments above. Thanks to those who wrote. Expertise is in short supply in the world, except below the line in this case.

  27. Why would you have to post pictures to a particular site to get your book published?

    I have no idea, but I learned loads of marketing is done on Instagram now. Apparently you post a pic and a hyperlink, and hopefully it goes viral. I tried it with my book, and don’t think I sold a single one like that (holding a revolver to people’s heads was far more effective).

  28. I see that Gold Standard of journalism,. the one that isn’t under commercial pressure to churn out copy and make profits, can’t tell the difference between Wasim Akram and Imran Khan:

    Newsnight has apologised for showing footage of Pakistan bowler Wasim Akram instead of his former teammate-turned-politician Imran Khan.

    The BBC Two news programme opened on Wednesday night with a piece about Khan’s journey from cricket star to potential Pakistani prime minister.

    But footage showed left-arm bowler Akram instead of the right-handed all-rounder Khan.

    Presenter Evan Davis apologised at the end of the programme.

    “We made a mistake in our opening tonight. The footage we showed was of the cricketer Wasim Akram not Imran Khan.

    “Don’t know how that happened, sincere apologies for that,” he told viewers.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-44965100

    And they’ve sneaked it to their entertainment section rather than the than news, hoping it won’t get wider publication, hoping that readers of the entertainment section are all idiots who think Khan is famous for marrying Jemima Goldsmith.

    I might have had a tad of understanding if they’d tucked it in the cricket section.

  29. Watcher, our host Tim Newman should have turned your comment into a guest post. It’s too good to be buried in a comments thread.

    “Profitable newsroom.” Was that intended as a joke or a figure of speech containing the word “moron”?

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