Donald Trump

One of the US’ major newspapers — The New York Daily News — is on its last legs and heading for collapse after its owners, the Chicago-based Tronc, slashed the paper’s newsroom in half on Monday morning. Reports said the process took one minute at a meeting for the sackings to be imposed. 

Leading the departures are the paper’s two top executives — the editor in chief and executive editor. The newsroom strength was 85 before the mass sacking. Tronc will not say how many are left, but media reports said around 40. The company told staff who survived the cut that the Daily News will focus on breaking news involving “crime, civil justice and public responsibility” with staff told to concentrate more on digital reporting.

The paper, perhaps the most aggressively anti-Trump in the country, has long been a part of New York City life. It sold more than 2.4 million copies each day during its peak in the late ’40s and has won 11 Pulitzer Prizes, including one last year. The paper changed hands in 2017 with Tronc paying $1 plus pension obligations and other liabilities. Its sales were then estimated at just 200,000 a day. Staff layoffs started soon after Tronc gained control, culminating in Monday morning’s purge. Media reports say the job cuts have concentrated on the most experienced and highest paid journalists.

Adding to the financial pressures on US papers, already struggling with declining circulations, has been Donald Trump’s punitive tariffs on US imports of Canadian newsprint. They were imposed to protect one company, Norpac, a producer based in Washington state, which claimed Canadian paper was being dumped in the US. Trump imposed tariffs of up to 32% on Canadian imports, which in turn sent the US price of newsprint up by 20% to nearly US$650 a tonne. That rise has been blamed for losses and job cuts across the fading US newspaper sector. 

Florida’s The Tampa Bay Times blamed the newsprint tariffs when it announced sackings earlier this year, the (Trump-supporting) publishers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will cut jobs when it lowers its publication roster by two days a week from August, and the Salt Lake Tribune is printing its local news section only three days a week, with reductions in the number of remaining pages. Will the Daily News’ publication frequency fall next?

Newspaper companies are among those who have made representations to Trump’s administration ahead of a decision on August 1 by the Department of Commerce on whether to uphold or reduce the tariffs. The International Trade Commission will have a final vote on the tariffs on August 28. No one expects Trump to change the laws. He sees the tariffs hurting his biggest enemy — print media, even if some of the papers impacted are supporters of him and his policies.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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