Management at the New York Daily News laid off half the paper’s editorial staff on July 23. Though the News will keep going, weakened and threatened, this is awful for obvious reasons, not least of all because a two-vigorous-tabloid town is a very good thing. Day to day, there’s a battle fought on the Daily News and Post front pages — “the wood,” in tabloid-speak. Which grabs your attention? Which makes the better joke about de Blasio? Sometimes one fronts the Yankees as the other goes with international news.
The wood reveals more than just straightforward competition. Going back decades, one sees a visual manifestation of fundamentally distinct voices in New York. The News put the legalization of same-sex marriage on the wood (“U.S. GAY!”) as the Post ran a story about a prison escapee gunned down by Border Patrol (“GOTCHA!”). The former Observer editor Tom McGeveran, known for his daily tabloid head-to-heads, pointed this out on Twitter: “The News was always the paper of the ‘people,’ ” he wrote. “Which at one point meant the Union memberships. The Post was the paper of management and power brokers.” That’s often manifested these days in a left-right split, though not always.
These brash, loud instruments force us to interpret the news of the day in public. Two disparate readings are presented on the newsstand, with peerless brevity, and you are pushed into their debate. To see both papers every day is to be drawn into a conversation about what matters, about what news is skewed and what incomplete. Most journalists, as everyone but our president knows, are not out to make any of it fake. But rivalry helps keep things honest, even when they’re utterly sensational.
Here’s a look at their dueling worldviews over the years.
*This article appears in the August 6, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!