The Daily News

Founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson and acquired by the Tribune Company of Chicago in 1922, the Daily News was America’s first successful tabloid. At its peak, it boasted a circulation of more than 1.5 million, and remained one of the country’s leading newspapers through much of the mid-20th century. The Daily News’ success was attributed to its sensational pictorial coverage and willingness to go a step further than its competitors in pursuit of attention-grabbing front page headlines. A case in point came in 1928, when a News reporter strapped a camera to his leg and captured the moment Ruth Snyder was electrocuted in the electric chair for murdering her husband. The following day the paper published the image of Snyder mid-electrocution, arousing the interest of thousands of readers and propelling the Daily News into the top ranks of national newspapers.

By the time of the 1970s, however, the Daily News had begun to wane in popularity. The newspaper’s labor costs ate up 44 percent of its revenue, and its parent company began to offer it for sale. Initially, the newspaper was offered up for sale to a number of companies, including the Tribune Company itself and Conrad Black’s Hollinger Inc, which owned Britain’s Daily Telegraph. In the end, the Daily News was sold to Mort Zuckerman, owner of The Atlantic magazine and founder of the cable television channel HBO, for $36 million.

Although the newspaper had long been locked in a battle for readership with its rival, The New York Post, it still managed to remain one of the nation’s leading publications at the turn of the 21st century. In 1975, it rolled out its best-known headline in its history with the ominous “Ford to City: Drop Dead!” Its subsequent headquarters at 220 East 42nd Street (now known as Manhattan West) was an iconic Art Deco building designed by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood that later served as the model for the Daily Planet building in the Superman series of films.

The 1980s marked the beginning of a decline for the Daily News, as it became increasingly clear that the newspaper’s once-proud profit margins were rapidly dwindling. By the late 1990s, the newspaper was losing more than a million dollars per month due to the high cost of paying union wages. The Daily News was also struggling to compete with a rising tide of online news sources, which were offering free information and opinions on everything from celebrity gossip to breaking news. A decade later, the Daily News suffered its biggest loss to date when a five-month union strike by its printing workers caused the newspaper to lose 145,000 daily subscribers. The News reverted to using non-union replacement staff, but the move was not enough to save the publication. By 1998, it was reported that the newspaper was losing $115 million per year. The Tribune Company eventually offered the Daily News for sale again, but this time it was able to acquire it with the backing of non-union print worker’s organizations.