The Daily News has a thing or two to teach us about saving newspapers

I’m now a fan of the New York Daily News.

It’s been eight or nine years since I’ve been a regular reader of a print newspaper. I get all the news I need online.

But, there’s something about the Daily News I find addictive. I tend to arrange my schedule so that I can buy a copy every day. Since it isn’t on any local news stand before I go to work in the morning, I find myself eating my lunch almost daily at the Wegman’s deli, where I can buy the Daily News and get a wrap.

When I’m out of state, I feel frustrated because I can’t get the News.

For me, the Daily News isn’t about keeping up on what’s going on in NYC (the paper calls itself “New York’s Hometown Newspaper”). It’s about the experience of the entire tabloid product. That’s an experience online can’t duplicate. In other words, if I can’t get my Daily News in print, I’m not going to the web site.

Since the actual content of the paper is of little interest, I can see my fascination with the Daily News waning eventually, but for now, I’m getting a great kick out of the paper.

The greatness of the newspaper begins with its writing, which is without pretense and full of action. Check this lede:

Two days after he allegedly tried to kidnap a feisty 11-year-old who wriggled out of his grasp, a Brooklyn teen was back on the street yesterday.

Here’s how I imagine a typical, run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen daily newspaper would cover the same story: “A Borough Park man who allegedly tried to kidnap an 11-year-old girl over the weekend was released from Rikers Island yesterday after posting $25,000 bail.”

Which story would you rather read?

Here’s a game you can try at home: pick any Daily News story and rewrite the lede into proper daily newspaper journalese. Now pick a story out of your local daily and rewrite it into a piece worthy of the Daily News.

Which story would you rather read?

There’s a reason the Daily News is one of the few general circulation newspapers in the US that is actually growing circulation (along with chief rival the New York Post, which I find distasteful, though it is growing faster).

As I said, the Daily News is more than just the writing. It’s an experience. It’s story selection, placement, layout and format … and I’m even enjoying the gossip columns. I’ve learned more about Paris Hilton in the past two or three weeks than I had ever known before. I find I care because the Daily News cares. Or, at least, I want to soak in the entire Daily News experience as the editors say I should experience it.

My interest in the Daily News was piqued when I got a video iPod and discovered Tabloid Wars on iTunes. Right after that, I met a guy in an airport bar who described the Daily News as “a blog on paper.”

I think there is something about the Daily News that holds a lesson or two for the rest of journalism.

If Tabloid Wars is to believed, the journalists at the Daily News care a great deal about truth and accuracy. They may use words like “fiend” and “feisty,” but they work hard to get the facts right. The Daily News demonstrates to me that you can be good journalists and write vividly.
I imagine some traditionalists think I have completely lost my marbles, but I think our readers are telling us in scores that so-called objective journalism holds little interest.

If we expect people to continue reading newspapers, we need to learn how to create newspapers that are lively and engaging. The same old boring recitation of just the facts isn’t going to cut it in an era where the local rag no longer is the only source of news.

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4 thoughts on “The Daily News has a thing or two to teach us about saving newspapers

  1. So here’s the question (and know I stopped on this post because I was taught how to read by reading Daily News headlines). When is it appropriate to be that feisty on the web? Or should editors and reporters keep it very basic so no matter where you’re from, the news is paletable to all?

  2. Good question, Kat.

    Use the search on my site for “personal journalism” … the posts you’ll find are mostly thinking out loud, but I think there is something to how people interact with digital media that is important … it feels more personal.

    Also, as the multitude of media choices continues to explode, being able to create content that people feel engaged with and connected too is going to be increasingly important.

    I tend to think it’s too early to give up on print as a viable business model, so I wrote this post from that perspective. But the larger content question applies to both print and online, and probably to online more so.

  3. […] People will pay to subscribe to HBO, but let’s see CNN try that model. You and I both know, that if CNN wasn’t bundled in with other channels, people wouldn’t pay for it (not in significant numbers). People still pay to see movies in theaters (one of the top activities of young people), and games, of course, are a big deal. but every type of paid news service is suffering (though there are exceptions, such as the New York Daily News). […]

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