Death of the Daily News

A lifeline for communities that lost, or are in danger of losing, their local newspapers, Death of the Daily News is a shrewd and deeply reported study of what happens when news dies—and, crucially, how it can be brought back to life. Andrew Conte probes the case of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, a town in which the newspaper went under in 2015 and where citizens stepped up to become gatekeepers of their own information. He uncovers the weaknesses of traditional top-down journalism and the pitfalls of a new breed of ‘citizen gatekeepers’, while arguing that the answer resides in true civic engagement.

The Yale Daily News is the nation’s oldest college daily newspaper, published Monday through Friday during the academic year in accordance with the schedule of classes at Yale and its affiliated schools. The News is financially and editorially independent of the university. It is available online and in print and aims to reflect the diversity of Yale and New Haven, including the nation’s Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities. The News also publishes a weekly WKND magazine and special issues each year celebrating Yale-Harvard game day, commencement, and first years.

Founded in 1919 as the Illustrated Daily News, the paper soon attracted a following with its sensational coverage of crime and scandal, social intrigue (such as the romance between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII that led to his abdication), and lurid photographs. The paper consolidated its position as the leading tabloid in the United States with its move to a larger, city-block-sized building at 220 East 42nd Street in 1929, an architectural landmark designed by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood.

As the era of large national and international newspaper chains continues to decline, many local daily papers are finding success in a new model, one that is lean and nimble and relies more on readers than advertisers. The result is a more relevant and intimate experience for the reader, and a model that is likely to be replicated in other parts of the country, as well as around the world. This trend is accelerating, with even the largest national and international newspapers struggling to survive in the face of declining revenue, digital disruption, and changing consumer habits. These challenges are especially acute for small and medium-sized local news organizations. In some cases, the only way to stay afloat is to cut staff and reduce expenses in order to keep pace with declining advertising revenues. This has triggered the closure of many longtime daily newspapers, and, in other cases, has forced them to sell off assets or declare bankruptcy. Many of those that have survived are undergoing drastic changes to their business models and attempting to re-imagine the role they play in their communities. Some are even experimenting with new forms of news delivery that could be part of the future of journalism. This tumultuous period for the newspaper industry has never been more important to understand.