September 17, 2015 / 11:00 PM / 2 years ago

New York Daily News hacks at sports coverage, the paper's heart

Copies of the New York Daily News are displayed on a newsstand in New York's Times Square March 31, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The daily fare of a big city tabloid such as the New York Daily News includes provocative gossip, arresting headlines, snappy features and at its heart and soul, sports.

That’s why sweeping layoffs in its sports department on Wednesday caught many off-guard.

“It doesn’t bode well for that newspaper continuing. In fact, if they continue and gut the sports department ... I‘m not sure why one would bother to buy it at the newsstand or as a business,” said Mike Cramer, director of The Texas Program in Sports and Media at the University of Texas-Austin.

Publisher Mort Zuckerman tried to sell the paper this year but found no buyers. He had wanted $200 million.

“The best estimates are it loses between $20 million and $30 million a year,” said Ken Doctor, media analyst for Newsonomics in Santa Cruz, California.

How much Zuckerman will spend to keep propping up the newspaper at a time when print advertising revenue industry-wide has fallen precipitously, is the main question, Doctor said.

He added: “The audience doesn’t need to consider the Daily News as a must read for sports as much as it did 10 years ago.”

Several members of the sports staff reported on Twitter that they had been cut, including well-known writers Bill Hammond, Filip Bondy and Wayne Coffey, along with former managing editor for sports Teri Thompson. Rival newspapers said baseball writer Bill Madden also lost his job.

The status of columnist Mike Lupica, the biggest name in the News’ sports department, remained unknown.

“They are stripping the heart out of it,” said John Feinstein, author and sports columnist for the Washington Post, who has known Lupica for 35 years and appeared with him on TV sports network ESPN.

Daily News owner Zuckerman, editor Colin Myler and Lupica did not respond to emails or phone calls.

The Daily News’ total average circulation has declined to 441,618 in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2014 from 525,145 in the same period in 2012, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. That figure does not include Sunday circulation which is larger.

“Old school sports reporting in a traditional sense has become a dying art,” said David Carter, executive director of the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute in Los Angeles.

“Combine this with trends in sports news consumption, including popular niche websites and social media, and newspaper reporting finds itself being on the brink,” said Carter.

Reporting By Daniel Bases; Editing by David Gregorio

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