NOEL KING, HOST:
The newsroom of the New York Daily News is being cut by half. The newspaper Chicago-based publisher Tronc bought the famed New York City tabloid last fall for just a dollar. Now it says it wants to restructure the Daily News. The newsroom staff learned of the cuts this morning through a memo, and NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik got ahold of that memo. Good morning, David.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.
KING: So why is Tronc cutting so dramatically the size of the Daily News newsroom?
FOLKENFLIK: I think because it can. I think because that's been its model as other - at its other newspapers is to cut and cut and cut. There are obviously real pressures in the industry to which it, the company, alludes in its memo. And it wants talk about meeting the digital moment, taking advantage of the opportunity of ways to distribute information. But cutting a newspaper that has, by the way, been subject to rounds of layoffs under previous owners to this degree, 50 percent, is almost unimaginable in a single swoop. And I think it's doing it because of the intentionality that it has shown under the current controlling ownership of Michael Ferro to, you know, wring out every possible cost and to try to get every possible dollar of profit for its corporate ownership.
KING: Well, what other properties does Tronc own, and what has it done with them? Has it made similar moves?
FOLKENFLIK: There have been deep cuts at places - the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, its two largest papers until earlier this year. And the reason I say until earlier this year is that the cuts at those places led to successful unionization drives at both places and that drive led in Los Angeles to the sale of the LA Times and its sister paper in Southern California, The San Diego Union Tribune. Tronc didn't really want to deal with a union at its largest newspaper, and it lost the romance for it. So this is really a point of contention for Tronc. It is seeking, as have certain other corporate owners, the folks who own Digital First Media - but really to wring - cut not only muscle and bone but into marrow at times.
KING: The editor in chief of the Daily News, Jim Rich - kind of a legend in New York and even outside of New York, I suppose - he's been fired. What's his reaction been?
FOLKENFLIK: He's been very angry and hurt. He, this morning, said, you know, if you - effectively, he said if you are a fan - if you hate democracy and think local governments should operate unchecked and in the dark, then today is a good day for you. And as this was being announced, he changed his Twitter bio to read just a guy sitting at home watching journalism being choked into extinction.
KING: Well, I guess he's not one to mince words.
FOLKENFLIK: Noel, a newspaper tabloid editor, you know - he knows how to pack a punch.
KING: (Laughter) Usually isn't. Let me ask you something. You know, New York has a lot of papers. Rich is making this argument that this is a big blow to local journalism. Is he right?
FOLKENFLIK: It's hard to think otherwise. The New York Times really has cut back its metropolitan and its city coverage. It's looking to do, you know, some impressive enterprise work. It's still doing watchdog journalism, but it's not covering the five boroughs of New York or what's called the tri-state area here to anything like same degree. The Wall Street Journal under Rupert Murdoch ventured into those grounds and really pulled back, as well.
KING: And it sounds like the reaction in New York today among people in media and with - outside of media has been just kind of heartbreak.
FOLKENFLIK: I think it's been heartbreak and anger that outside corporate figures would do this without an appreciation for New York. This will certainly take a toll on the journalism in the city as it's currently constituted.
KING: NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. Thanks, David.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.