Sometimes it helps to get things out in the open.
The first newspaper I remember flipping through as a kid was the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. Growing up in northern New Jersey 30 years ago, it was my grandfather’s newspaper of choice. Occasionally, when I was going to go outside for a walk, I would be tasked with picking up a copy of the paper for him at the corner store. My father told me he used to do the same thing when he was a kid.
Throughout my life, I’ve associated so much about newspapers and journalism with the Daily News. It’s not really a surprise, growing up in the New York metro area. And because so much of what was on TV and in movies was focused on the City, it felt like there were depictions of the Daily News everywhere. It defined an entire industry for me. When I started to take an interest in writing, I would pay particular interest to the way sentences and paragraphs and stories were formed in the paper. The Daily News, from a young age, helped push me into journalism.
There were other things, of course, that led me down that path. After all, my favorite character, Superman, was a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper when he wasn’t flying around the world. Even when his cape wasn’t flowing, and he put his glasses on as Clark Kent, he was helping to save the world through the power of the press. It’s possible it was an even more potent ability than his super strength or his heat vision.
When SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE was produced in the late-1970s, the film used the old Daily News offices for the backdrop of The Daily Planet, the paper where Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Perry White worked. The Daily News and The Daily Planet eventually became synonymous to me (even though the Planet is usually depicted to be a broadsheet more like the New York Times).
But even though I held the Daily News in such high regard – or maybe because of that – I could never picture myself working there. From 2003 – when I got my first job in newspapers – to 2015, I worked at smaller, community papers in Upstate New York, in Massachusetts, in the suburbs of Chicago and, finally, in Queens. Each step made me a better journalist and a better editor, but still, I don’t know that I ever felt worthy to be a part of what is essentially a New York City institution.
In the spring of 2015, I found myself unemployed. The first job ad I responded to was one for a news layout editor at the Daily News. I did not for one moment believe that I would even get an interview, let alone get hired at this place I had worshipped for so long. So when Rich O’Malley, then the paper’s executive editor, called me to set up an interview, I was dumbstruck after I hung up the phone. When O’Malley called me a couple of weeks later – after an interview and a couple of tryout sessions – to offer me a job, I couldn’t believe it.
My father, who was always supportive of my career choice but maybe a little concerned about my financial future, told me how proud he was of me when I told him. And, he said, my grandfather would be proud of me, working at the paper he read pretty much every day.
The New York Daily News was my grandfather’s paper. It became mine, as well. And despite a bumpy road over the last three-plus years, I am filled with pride every day when I see a copy of the paper on newsstands. Because I get to work with some of the smartest, most talented group of journalists I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I didn’t lose my job yesterday, when the paper’s new owners, tronc, decided to slash the staff by nearly half, but if given the opportunity I would have gladly offered up my job to save any of the talented people that I watched walk out of the office with their belongings boxed up. Over the last three years, this is the fourth or fifth round of layoffs I’ve experienced, and it was no doubt the hardest to live through.
We knew it was coming. The rumors were floating for two weeks that layoffs were coming. Numbers floated that the staff would be reduced by anywhere from 20 to 70 percent. In the end, tronc decided on just about half. Those of us who remained on staff spent the day wondering how things would play out and how the paper would look going forward. But mostly, we mourned the loss our friends suffered – and that we suffered as dozens of people said their goodbyes and walked out the door.
I have no doubt that the people let go yesterday will land on their feet and will continue to make an impact in the City and the country. And I hope that those of us who remain at the Daily News can live up to the legacy and the high standard they all helped establish.