Friday, September 18, 2015

The New York Daily News' Firemageddon wrecks me to the core

For better or worse, the New York Daily News was a huge part of my life from an early age. I grew up reading the paper every day, starting from 1977, when I was 10 years old. Between the New York Yankees' "Bronx Zoo"-era coverage, and the Son of Sam stories, the paper was an enormous influence on my way of thinking.  Then, when I ended up working at the tabloid in 2000, being at the paper -- and the friends I made there -- helped turn me from a rube (my idea of fine dining then was Red Lobster!) into a real New Yorker.

Plus, I met Squawker Jon (he hired me and got me out of Texas) and other people who are friends to this day. Way back in 2006, Jon suggested that we start something called a "blog" together, where he would argue for the Mets, and I would for the Yankees. Without the Daily News, there would be no Subway Squawkers! 

I had always wanted to be a writer, but my only outlet then was writing about the Yankees on various local message boards. If it weren't for Jon suggesting that we create the blog, I would be nowhere in my writing career.

The News helped make me who I am today. I refer to it as my "alma mater" because of that reason. There were some really good times (Dina and Andy: remember the Whizzinator joke!), but some really terrible times as well, especially towards the end of our days there. (Jon and I got laid off on the same day during the Great Recession.)

I have such bittersweet emotions about the place. It was the most negative work environment I have ever been in; so much so that I think I had PTSD towards the end of my tenure there, I also learned a lot at the paper. I was (privately) bitter for a long time after losing my job, but I can now acknowledge now that there were many good times mixed in there, too, 

It has been almost seven years since I worked at the  Daily News, but I still have old friends and old colleagues there, and I still read at least parts of the paper fairly regularly. And while I expected that there would be layoffs after it was announced that owner Mort Zuckerman was unable to find a buyer for the paper, even I was stunned to see how many good people are now losing their jobs this week. 

With the news of the job losses, I also had flashbacks to when I got laid off, and how devastated (yet relieved) I felt at the time. My last few months at the paper (with a boss who despised me, and who I despised) were like being stuck in an abusive relationship (he even stole stuff from me!), and it reminded me how miserable I was then. Fortunately, my life is much better now, although it took a long time to get there.

I also can see now that losing my job there was ultimately a net positive, as it set me on a different career trajectory. Because I worked nights them, I really didn't know anybody in New York City. Losing my job forced me to meet new people and network and get out there, instead of thinking that life was all about West 33rd Street. 

A word to the wise -- if you know someone who has suffered a job loss, whether at the DN or elsewhere, please don't tell them nonsense like "everything happens for a reason" or "you'll be better off in no time." That is not realistic. And everything doesn't happen for a reason, unless you think there is some cosmic value to, say, children getting cancer. 

I can tell people from personal experience that I went through rough times after my Daily News job loss, ultimately became a stronger person through such a trial by fire, and am much happier now. But it certainly didn't happen overnight. As the Ringo Starr song said, "It Don't Come Easy." Nothing worth having does. 

And the single best thing you can do, other than listening to your friend's concerns after a job loss, is to give them a lead for a new job. I reached out to some contacts tonight on behalf of a few of my old friends. I hope this will help them get back on their feet soon.

I was a little sad to hear that lead A-Rod basher Bill Madden and sports editor and investigative team leader Teri Thompson lost their jobs, even though part of me finds it amusing that during this time, A-Rod is riding so high! I grew up reading Madden and still have several of his books on my shelves, before he went so wacky against A-Rod. Thompson may not have been nice to A-Rod, but she was always nice to me personally.

On the other hand, I have nothing but schadenfreude about Mike Lupica. Heaven help the web editor who didn't turn off the comments section on his articles. (He refused to allow anybody to comment on his work!)  Here's a comment: What a tool!

To see good people like Filip Bondy and Roger Rubin and Wayne Coffey and David Hinckley lose their jobs just floors me. Especially Hinckley. I wrote the following on Facebook after I heard about him being part of the layoffs:

I just heard that entertainment columnist David Hinckley was one of the casualties of the New York Daily News' Firemageddon. I am not ashamed to admit that this news literally made me have to leave my desk so I could go have a good cry. There have been a lot of bad losses to the paper over the past day, but this is the worst.

Nobody wrote as much as Hinckley did for the Daily News, or as well. He was able to write quickly and intelligently on any entertainment topic you could think of. Hinckley was my very favorite writer at the paper. And it wasn’t just due to his writing; it was due to what a generous, kind person he was. He was a true team player in a very cynical industry.

In my last 18 months at the paper as a web editor, I was tasked with getting original online-only entertainment content for the site. However, I had no budget. Instead, I was expected to use my powers of persuasion to get the paper’s already overworked entertainment writers to create content for the web for no additional compensation. 

Needless to say, this wasn’t an easy thing to get done. But not with Hinckley. He never turned down a request, even if it meant him writing at home for free on his own time. Sometimes, if there was a breaking entertainment story, like when Heath Ledger died, Hinckley would even offer on his own to do a web-only piece, like when he put Ledger’s death in context with other actors under 30. 

Squawker Jon and I used to joke that if a real Armageddon came, they could put out an entire paper just with Hinckley’s writing. He was that prolific – and that good. I guess the paper’s plan is to replace the older writers they fired with younger, cheaper people, the way they did with the web site. But in my opinion, they may as well just shut the paper down now. Without Hinckley, and the many sports layoff casualties, they have gotten rid of pretty much every single interesting voice at the Daily News. This makes me very sad.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

I have been reading the DN for 52 years, I never thought that I would see a day such as this. As one commenter said, "It was the only paper you would read like the Torah, back to front. I always wanted to be one of those players in the sports page, but soon enough the writers there gave me my sports fill.
To all of the great writers, my best wishes go out to you and thank you. To all of the pressmab, drivers, copy editors as well as the remaining writing staff, thank you, you're next.

Tom Corcoran said...

I have been reading the DN for 52 years, I never thought that I would see a day such as this. As one commenter said, "It was the only paper you would read like the Torah, back to front. I always wanted to be one of those players in the sports page, but soon enough the writers there gave me my sports fill.
To all of the great writers, my best wishes go out to you and thank you. To all of the pressmab, drivers, copy editors as well as the remaining writing staff, thank you, you're next.

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