As the New York Daily News' staff is cut by 50% this old newspaper boy remembers the great Irish American voices who told the New York Irish community's tales.
Have you ever had that moderately annoying experience when you go shopping? When you have to put a quarter into a slot in order to liberate a shopping cart from a long line of carts that have been rammed together?
And maybe you don’t have a quarter. Or maybe the carts remain stuck together and you have to yank and pull at the clunky cart, and all the while you are thinking, why all this fuss and bother?
Because of thieves like me.
Back in the eighties, lots of kids my age had little choice but to become thieves. Because, back in those days, lots of kids worked as paper boys. Yes, there were some girls who delivered newspapers, but it was, indeed, mostly boys.
And so, every morning, from sixth grade to senior year in high school, I was up and out the door around 6:30 a.m., when I would bicycle to a street corner a block away and pick up a bound bundle of 50 or so copies of the New York Daily News that had been dropped off by a gigantic delivery truck, which made similar stops all across Staten Island, just as dozens of other gigantic trucks were making similar stops all across New York City, before sunlight ever even hit the asphalt.
Of course, Sunday papers were so fat back then that the satchel you slung over your shoulder to carry the papers Monday through Saturday was woefully inadequate. And so you had to steal a shopping cart from a supermarket to wheel around those fat Sunday papers.
All this came to mind last week when word came down that the Daily News’ parent company gutted the paper, cutting the staff in half.
As he takes over a newsroom that was just reduced by half, the New York Daily News' new top editor, Robert York, is asking remaining staff for 30 days to chart a new course https://t.co/y8wo3ewiDU pic.twitter.com/ah6oPZFpMX— CNN International (@cnni) July 24, 2018
In a statement, the paper’s owner, Tronc, vowed that the paper would remain vibrant and -- more importantly -- viable. The paper would not be closing.
Still, it’s hard to imagine the daily product, already thinned, getting any better. Coverage in several outlets marked this as the end of the Daily News.
Nothing -- not even regaling my four children with long-winded stories of delivering newspapers in blinding snow or soaking rain -- makes me feel quite so old as my attachment to ink stained printed pages. Every morning three newspapers still appear on my stoop, delivered not by three enterprising teenagers but instead by some poor adult “contractor” with a beat-up van, who probably delivers something like three dozen overall titles.
There was a time when the Daily News sold as many as two million copies a day. The great Pete Hamill, who eventually spent time as the paper’s editor, likes to note that the News helped his Irish immigrant parents learn about New York, and America. It did the same for generations of immigrants from all over the world.
And the stable of Irish American talent that filled the News pages! Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill, Denis Hamill, Michael Daly, Jim Dwyer, even “Mighty Quinn,” whose tiny, colorful column graced the box scores page for years, keeping readers posted on life in some of the city’s hardest-working, if least-fashionable, precincts.
This played no small part in eventually blessing (or cursing) me with the desire to tell my own stories about the big city and its people.
To be clear, the reason I remain attached to print is not merely nostalgia. I still believe this is the most effective and efficient format for delivering an engaging blend of information and entertainment.
Of course, everybody “gets” news on the internet. But it’s usually passive, accidental, something you happen to see.
News on the internet remains profoundly chaotic and disorganized. Hence, all of the hyper-partisanship, where people only listen to like-minded screamers.
Sitting down with a newspaper remains active, a conscious decision to engage with the world. And the work newspaper editors do to organize that information is nothing short of an art form.
Of course, there is something inevitable about the slow death of print. Of course, technology allows us to do many amazing things. What it has not done is figure out a way to replace what is lost when we lose things like the Daily News.