Survival of the fittest: Don’t kill the Daily News

The following appeared in the Daily News Op-Ed.

OF ALL THE worrisome scenarios about the future of Philadelphia’s two daily newspapers, the one I’ve read the most is that no potential buyer will continue to operate both of them.

I don’t pretend to understand the numbers, but if some investor decides he can’t turn an adequate profit by operating both papers, then I’m sorry it has to be this way:

Farewell, Inquirer.

Yeah, I know, the conventional thinking is, if any paper folds, it would be the smaller Daily News. Compared to the weighty Inquirer, we seem so dispensable.

But before the new owner drops the ax, he should put all those market surveys and investor analyses aside and simply ask the readers which paper they’d rather see survive.

That might be a tough choice, but all you need to do is honestly answer this question:

What would you read instead if one of us closed?

Let’s say you want national and international news.

Unless it’s Paris Hilton, not Paris, France, you’re after, no big loss if the Daily News folds. But if the Inquirer closes, well, you’re just going to turn to the New York Times. In fact, you’re probably already subscribing to the Times, which does a much better job of covering the world than the Inquirer.

Suburban news?

Again, the Daily News doesn’t bother to cross City Avenue unless there’s spilled blood – the Inquirer beats us hands-down in the ‘burbs. Again, if you want that news, you’re already reading more in-depth coverage of your neighborhood in your local suburban paper.

So, let’s reassess: If the Inquirer closes, you can easily replace it with a paper you probably already read or is easily available.

The Daily News, on the other hand, kills the Inquirer on city news, sports and, incidentally, beer columnists. No one else has bylines from Bill Conlin or Dave Davies or Kitty Caparella. No one else writes headlines like the Daily News.

If the Daily News closed, what would you read?

Please, don’t tell me the Inquirer. It could no sooner replace a fun, in-your-face tabloid than the Daily News would publish a weeklong investigative report on the fate of African rhinos.

The problem here is one of misplaced priorities by the people who control the purse strings.

Ever since the two newspapers came under one owner, the Daily News has been the little sister, surviving on the scraps left over after the privileged broad-sheeters finished polishing their Pulitzer Prize entries. The owners never understood that, even during the Inquirer’s heyday, it was the brash little rag – “Rizzo Lied, Tests Show” – that Philadelphia cared and talked about.

Still clueless as recently as last week, the folks upstairs issued a glossy report belittling the Daily News as a scrappy underdog whose “character and spirit” should somehow be preserved when the ax falls. The unwritten suggestion is that the Inquirer might somehow find room in its pages to accommodate the journalism of the Daily News.

Spare me.

If the new owners have even an ounce of Philly smarts, they’ll quickly understand that it’s the Daily News that is irreplaceable.

And for those who doubt the People Paper could flourish as this city’s sole daily newspaper, I say give the Daily News the resources the Inquirer has always enjoyed – bigger staff, larger news hole, Sunday edition, earlier press time, foreign bureaus, decent comics and, not incidentally, a cheaper newsstand price – and see what would happen.

Bottom line: I don’t want to see any newspaper close. But if one of ’em has to go, better them than us.


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