New York Daily News sold for one dollar

An old real estate rival of Donald Trump is giving up his soapbox from which vitriol has flowed toward the 45th president as another formerly important newspaper is sold for a pittance.  In this case, the nominal price of one dollar for the New York Daily News obscures an undisclosed pension liability in the millions.  Mort Zuckerman, the real estate developer and rival of Donald Trump, bought the paper for $36 million in 1993 and now will get a handsome tax write-off for his capital loss.  The psychic income he got from running a newspaper in the Big Apple, often used to attack people Zuckerman despises, is not taxable by the IRS.  After 24 years, and advanced in age, Zuckerman is packing it in.  Jeff Bezos, no doubt, is paying close attention.

Once upon a time, the New York Daily News was the biggest newspaper in the United States, selling more than two million copies a day.  Its easy-to-hold tabloid format made it ubiquitous on the city's subways, and its photo-journalism as "New York's Picture Newspaper" (a title it claimed until the 1990s) often carried a bigger punch than its colorful prose.  The crime photographer known as Weegee (Arthur Fellig), with his speed graphic camera, produced gritty crime scene photos that are now regarded as masterpieces.  "If it bleeds, it leads" was not invented by television news directors.

The Daily News's art deco skyscraper headquarters on 42nd Street near Grand Central Station is considered one of the finest examples of that building style, with a dramatic lobby containing a massive globe.  This was said to be the inspiration for the fictional Daily Planet, where Superman's alter ego Clark Kent worked.

NYDN Building Lobby (from an old postcard).

In other words, if any newspaper could be considered the emblematic big-city, mass-circulation, blue-collar rag, it was the Daily News.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

The new owner is called Tronc, formerly the Tribune Company, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and a few other papers like the Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant.  Perhaps cost-cutting will be able to save the enterprise based on obsolete technology.  Tronc plans to use the massive idle printing capacity of the NYDN's printing plant in Jersey City to print the Courant and another paper it owns in Allentown, Pa.  No doubt writers will be sharing material across papers, but the biggest opportunity probably lies in advertising deals, since the company now owns papers in the three biggest cities in the country.

The number of newspapers that can survive as the soapbox of wealthy interests is rather limited.  The attraction of the Washington Post to Jeff Bezos is obvious, but few local rags carry sufficient weight to be amusing as a plaything or useful as a tool of political influence.

Time is running out on the newspaper industry.

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