Paul Janensch: New York needs ‘Da Nooz’
When I was a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1963-64, I devoured the Daily News every morning.
I thought I’d like to work there.
I never did. And I never will — not just because I’m past retirement age but also because the New York tabloid just laid off half the news staff.
The Daily News is losing tons of money for its owner, Tronc Inc., formerly Tribune Publishing of Chicago. Its future looks bleak.
Too bad. New York needs the Daily News. It’s the voice of the city’s working class, such as hard hats, store clerks, secretaries, cabbies and cops.
New York had seven daily newspapers back then. Now it has three: “Da Nooz,” as New Yorkers call it, The New York Times and the New York Post.
I liked the Daily News best. It was brash but reliable and focused on news of the city, especially crime and corruption. Good sports section. The writing was brisk, the headlines were punchy and the photos were eye-grabbing.
I often disagreed with the belligerent editorials, but you never had to guess where the Daily News stood on an issue.
At the time, the Daily News sold 2 million copies — more than any other newspaper in the country. Today the circulation is one-tenth of that.
I didn’t think I was experienced enough to be hired by the Daily News. So I accepted an offer from The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, which was smaller but well- regarded.
In 1975, I was offered the job of managing editor of another tabloid — the Philadelphia Daily News, owned by the now defunct Knight Ridder chain.
A year later, I was invited back to Louisville and eventually became the executive editor there.
In Philadelphia, my ambition was to help make our Daily News like the Daily News in New York. We exposed problems in public housing projects and sloppy patient-care in a city hospital.
We determined the cost of lavish accessories in the imposing new home being built by Mayor Frank Rizzo. How could a former cop afford a $400 brass doorknob?
When he was re-elected, I wrote the Page 1 headline, called “the wood.” It was just one word: “RIZZO!”
A talented junior editor was John S. Knight III, 30, grandson of John S. Knight, founder of Knight Newspapers, which had recently merged with Ridder Publications.
Late one night, young Knight was murdered by intruders in his spacious center city apartment. I had to go to the morgue and identify the body.
Our reporters learned from the police that Knight had been living a secret life, cruising rough-trade gay bars and becoming friendly with other customers, including one of the suspects in his murder.
Did we report that? Of course. Not in a lurid way. But we left out none of the relevant facts.
I asked myself, What would the New York Daily News do?
Paul Janensch, of Bridgeport, was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University. Email: email@example.com.