I’ve always liked the Philadelphia Daily News. In many ways, I’ve often preferred it to its sibling, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Daily News might have been – through the 90s and early aughts – the best tabloid newspaper in the U.S. It was a feisty big-city publication that led the city on political commentary and sports coverage. It had phenomenal columnists like the late Stan Hochman and Chuck Stone. It was the publishing home of Russell Byers, killed in a failed robbery attempt in the parking lot of the Chestnut Hill Wawa on Highland Avenue, and of former Hill resident and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, Signe Wilkinson.
If you wanted famous Philadelphia attitude with your news, a no-punches-pulled honesty, then the Daily News was your paper.
When news broke late last week that Philadelphia Media Network’s publisher Terry Eggers had announced that the company would be merging the newsrooms of its two flagship papers – the Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer – I couldn’t help but feel that the days of the Daily News were now very much numbered.
Many have been waiting for the Daily News to close up shop for some time. The company that owns it and the Inquirer has been under constant financial strain since its former owner, Knight Ridder, was gobbled up by McClatchy and the papers sold to local ownership.
Since that time, the paper’s owners have suffered through multiple bankruptcies, massive layoffs and more. In a piece this week on the media site Poynter.org, former Inquirer newsman Rick Edmonds reported that circulation of the tabloid has fallen from nearly 100,000 15 years ago to 40,000 today. In a city of more than 1.5 million, 40,000 copies is not terribly great market penetration.
Fears that the Daily News was approaching extinction were measured somewhat by statements from Eggers that the company would continue to publish both the Inquirer and the Daily News. The rationale for keeping the Daily News, which was touched on by Edmonds, is that the urban buyers of the Daily News likely would not become Inquirer readers. But at some point, the expense of maintaining a second title to serve a readership that could soon be smaller than the population of Roxborough, becomes impossible to justify.
Even if the publication does persist, it’s hard to imagine that it will be able to maintain that voice that made it what it is. As efforts to streamline the newsroom get underway and efficiencies are found – two reporters for education, or politics or sports become one – the efforts will likely continue to shore up the Inquirer. The Daily News under that arrangement will likely become little more than an abbreviated version of the Inquirer that’s easier to read on the train.
That might not in itself be a terrible thing, but it would not fill the role the Daly News has played in this city.
Perhaps I’m wrong, and the Daily News will find a way to persist – a new niche that will keep it relevant in a world where daily news items printed on paper is fast losing its importance. I’ll continue to root for it, but I won’t hold my breath.
— Pete Mazzaccaro