BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I’m Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I’m Bob Garfield. In March, 2016 the new chairman of the newspaper holding company now known as Tronc explained his business philosophy. It’s not how you start, Michael Ferro said, it's how you finish. Well, on Monday, Chelsia Rose Marcius started her day as a plucky reporter for Tronc’s New York Daily News and she finished -- unemployed, along with half of the tabloid’s newsroom. It was obviously a cruel blow but on Monday afternoon at an impromptu wake in a downtown saloon the 30-year-old staff reporter was struggling more with worry about how an entire city and world can be covered by the 45 souls who remained.
CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS: I mean, we were already cutting back on cutting -- covering community board meetings and CCRB and those sorts of things. I mean, it’s mind boggling. It, it -- it’s just like, you know, it’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking.
BOB GARFIELD: The morning began with all the news interns shuttled to a theater for an unexpected showing of the movie Jurassic World. Once the coast was clear, your colleagues were ushered into conference rooms where 45 of them were abruptly cashiered. By noon, they’d reassembled in the bar for this forlorn revelry, both celebrating and bemoaning what they had lost and, in further paradox, as unsurprised as they were shell shocked because this was merely the latest blow to the Daily News and to local journalism nationwide.
Thirty years ago, the Daily News employed 400 journalists. Meanwhile, in only the past 18 years, the number of US newsroom jobs has been cut in half. The ad economy has long since collapsed and newspaper profitability with it.
Notably, Tronc’s 2016 founding promise was more streamlined content delivery, helped by aggregation, which is not newsgathering, and artificial intelligence, which is not newsgathering, and artificial intelligence, which is not question asking and robots, which are not reporters, which Marcius says they all knew and -- suppressed.
CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS: To do your job every day you can’t really think about that. You have to be invested in the stories you’re reporting on and the people you’re reporting on and the people you’re reporting for, my editors, my colleagues. So I think there is a little bit of a denial factor as you move along in it. You know it’s happening and you, you recognize it’s happening, but you still have a job to do and you can’t dwell on the fact that this is what’s going on in the background.
BOB GARFIELD: Tom LaForgia was a North Bronx kid who grew up loving the Daily News, its wicked page 1 headlines, the feisty populist worldview, the whole straphanger vibe.
TOM LaFORGIA: There’s a romanticism to it. It’s cool, like punk rock a little bit, to get on the front page of a tabloid that still circulates respectable numbers, literally give Ted Cruz the middle finger. That sort of stuff is cool! And I was drawn to that, as I think a lot of my coworkers were. That is, that is the New York City tabloid ethos, and it, it’s unique in the world.
BOB GARFIELD: Not to mention the legacy of pugnacious investigative reporting, which, as recently as last year, earned to the paper a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering police abuses in apartment evictions of the poor.
TOM LaFORGIA: It’s as hardnosed and facts-oriented as any respectable broadsheet you’ll ever encounter. It’s not like we have a lower burden of truth than anybody else ‘cause we like to make _it jokes. [LAUGHS] We’re, we’re still journalism.
BOB GARFIELD: LaForgia was one of the lucky ones. He avoided termination by having already quit for an editing job in the oxygen.com family of websites.
Someone else who will stay employed at the News is Molly Crane-Newman, the only experienced street reporter to show up for work that day and still have a job on Tuesday. At a wake, survivor’s guilt is no fun either.
MOLLY CRANE-NEWMAN: It’s tragic and I -- there is, of course, this feeling that they are the ones who deserve to stay. They’ve been in this -- at this company a lot longer in the game, a lot longer than I have. And I’m confused by it. I can’t make sense of it.
BOB GARFIELD: Or how to cover a city of 8.6 million, damn near all by herself.
MOLLY CRANE-NEWMAN: I can't quite envision what the future is right now and, of course, I -- we also, we work in tandem with photographers and the photographers have all been laid off and, and I, I, I, I don’t really have an answer to that question just yet. All I can say is that I’m gonna do my best, and I understand the responsibility….
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: In the 1950s and ‘60s, there was a TV show about New York.
[THE NAKED CITY CLIP]:
NARRATOR: There are eight million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.
BOB GARFIELD: Now there are 8.6 million stories in the naked city, and Molly, with maybe some help from artificial intelligence and Tronc robots, will have to be content each day to tell one of them, that is until the next round of cuts. Management thought that they were shielding the interns from Monday morning's cruelty but at Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, they saw the same brutal show. I mean, what do you do with the dinosaurs?
SENATOR SHERWOOD: Do these animals deserve the same protection given to other species? Or should they just be left to die?