Ever since the days of Pulitzer and Hearst, New York has been known as a cutthroat town with fierce rivalries between newspaper publishers, but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy this week, the old guard of Gotham's print media has adopted a new strategy: Help each other out.
The offices, printing facilities and distribution network of many of the metro area’s daily newspapers were interrupted following the storm. As the Huffington Post reported on Tuesday, newspapers were hard to find on New York streets the day after Sandy struck, as road, tunnel and bridge closures made deliveries impossible in many areas of the city.
Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal, tweeted Tuesday, “Apologies to all WSJ readers who missed deliveries today. All tried hard, but Sandy too strong.”
But it was the New York Daily News that suffered the brunt of Sandy’s wrath. Its main office is downtown, right in the middle of a flooded evacuation zone. To make matters worse, the paper’s printing plant is in Jersey City, where some 90 percent of the city remains without power.
Thankfully, some of the city’s other newspapers have pitched in to keep the tabloid daily humming along. As the Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey reported Wednesday, the New York Times, Newsday, the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record and the Hartford Courant have all agreed to print copies of the Daily News until its presses are up and running. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the Daily News’ archrival, the New York Post, was not on the list.) What’s more, the Associated Press and Jewish Week have offered the Daily News office space and other technological help.
Bill Holiber, president and CEO of the Daily News, told the Journal that “the outreach by our comrades has been amazing.”
It was on Monday evening when the Daily News lost power at its downtown office, although it was still able to print Tuesday’s paper on its own. But for Wednesday and Thursday’s editions at least, the paper is going to have to rely on the kindness of rivals.
The idea of New York newspaper publishers helping out a down-on-its-luck rival is a far cry from the venomous climate of newspaper publishing in the 20th century, where ornery, ink-stained publishers took grudges right to the grave. At least symbolically, this week’s post-Sandy effort may simply reflect a common bond shared between compatriots in an embattled industry, one still reeling from its diminished place in the media landscape.
The Times’ David Carr wrote Wednesday about the sudden import of Twitter during a major catastrophe like Sandy, as millions of people scour social media for real-time updates while playing armchair journalist to fellow users in their immediate networks. Major media outlets are still responsible for disseminating vital information, of course, but then it’s hard to imagine that very many people noticed the absence of a print newspaper on their doorstep Tuesday morning.
Many a media pundit has cited the protracted rivalry between the Wall Street Journal’s Rupert Murdoch and the New York Times’ Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as the last of the great New York newspaper wars, a balky battle to the death between two bygone titans who haven’t noticed that no one else is paying attention. But even if newspaper publishers don’t yell “stop the presses” like they did in the movies anymore, it’s nice to know that when the presses stop during a tragedy, they can turn to each other for help.