The New York Daily News

In 1919, Joseph Medill Patterson began a daily tabloid newspaper called the Illustrated Daily News in New York City. It quickly became popular, attracted by sensational coverage of crime and scandal, lurid photographs, and cartoons. By 1930 it had become the biggest newspaper in America.

The New York Daily News remained successful through the mid-20th century, often leading its competitors in terms of attention-grabbing front page stories. In 1928, the paper’s reporter Tom Howard strapped a small hidden camera to his leg to capture an image of Ruth Snyder during her electrocution in the electric chair. The next day, the newspaper ran a headline: “DEAD!”

A large part of the success of the Daily News during this period can be attributed to its brassy pictorial style and willingness to go to extreme lengths in order to generate an attention-grabbing front page.

However, despite its continued success in the wake of World War II, the newspaper began to see a decline in readership and circulation. This was due in no small part to a multi-month strike by the New York Daily News’s ten unions, which lasted from October 1990 through January 1991. The newspaper was able to continue publishing throughout the strike by using non-union replacement workers, but it was a disastrous financial time for the newspaper, which lost $70 million in the fourth quarter of 1990 alone.

In an attempt to revitalize the newspaper, publisher Mort Zuckerman made several major changes to the paper. In addition to investing $60 million into color presses in 1993, the Daily News also repositioned itself as a more serious tabloid and shifted its focus from sensationalism to politics. By 1995, the newspaper had left its historic News Building at 450 West 33rd Street and moved to a single floor office in Manhattan West. It would later launch the successful quarterly insert BET Weekend for African Americans and the monthly Caribbean Monthly.

By the start of the 21st century, the Daily News was struggling with declining readership and a changing media landscape. In an effort to regain some of its former glory, the newspaper harked back to its roots in its headlines, including re-hashing its most famous headline from 1975: “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD”. The Daily News continued to struggle through the rest of the decade, but its fortunes turned with the election of Donald Trump and his divisive, bombastic campaign. In 2017, the Daily News was sold to Tronc, a Chicago-based media company. It continues to publish the newspaper today. Each article in the Daily News Historical Archive is accompanied by a set of comprehension and critical thinking questions to help readers understand the news story. Click the “Background” and “Resources” links below each question to find additional information about the event or topic being covered. Each question is available in both English and Spanish. To help students practice their reading and language skills, the Daily News also offers a free daily email quiz.

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