The Daily News

Founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson, the Daily News was the first successful tabloid newspaper. It found abundant subject matter in the crime and scandal of urban life, and lurid pictorial coverage attracted readers.

By the end of the decade, the paper was among the top ten in circulation in the United States. A decade later, it reached a new peak in distribution, and by the mid-1950s the Daily News was considered one of the most influential newspapers in the country. The success of the Daily News was attributed to its sensational pictorial coverage, and a willingness to go one step further than competitors in order to capture an attention-grabbing front page. For example, in 1928 a Daily News reporter strapped a camera to his leg and photographed Ruth Snyder being executed in the electric chair, with the result published the following day with the headline “DEAD!”

The newspaper’s early years saw a number of changes in ownership, with the paper moving from the Tribune Company to the Manhattan West Corporation in 1929. In the mid-1930s the Daily News became an early user of the Associated Press wirephoto service, and developed a large staff of photographers. The News also began to devote substantial space to entertainment features, including columns by Ed Sullivan, who would soon become host of The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS.

As the Daily News entered the 21st century, it continued to struggle with its rival, the more sensational New York Post. However, the Daily News built up a reputation for its strong coverage of city politics, and earned Pulitzer Prizes for Distinguished Commentary in 1996 for E.R. Shipp’s pieces on race and welfare issues, and in 1998 for Mike McAlary’s reporting on the police beating of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. The Daily News also began publishing the quarterly (later monthly) insert BET Weekend for African Americans, and launched a web edition in 1999.

By 1993, the Daily News was in financial trouble, with circulation halving in the previous year, and its former owners, the Tribune Publishing Company, put the paper up for sale. Mort Zuckerman, the owner of The Atlantic, bid for the newspaper, and was ultimately able to outbid Conrad Black, founder of Hollinger Inc., which owned the Chicago Sun-Times and Britain’s Daily Telegraph.

The Daily News was sold to the private equity firm Mortimer Zuckerman in December of that year for $36 million, which was less than half the amount Black had offered. Under Zuckerman’s leadership, the newspaper rebounded and rediscover its earning potential, and established itself as a serious competitor to USA Today. The Daily News invested $60 million in color presses, and began to match the visual quality of its competitor. In 1995, the Daily News relocated from its News Building headquarters at 450 West 33rd Street to its current location at 5 Manhattan West. The move was partly a response to the fact that the News’ labor costs had been swallowing 44 percent of its revenue, contributing to its massive losses.