What the Heck Is Happening to the Daily News?

Two teenagers are killed by automatic weapons and People's Paper leads with naked yoga.

This past Tuesday, the Daily News put a picture of a woman on their front page. The woman was wearing a big smile and nothing else.

This chuckleheaded cover choice came at a time when women rights are under fire. You may have noticed that it’s been like 1958 all over again for women in recent weeks.

But before completely mounting my high horse Dexter, I should state it’s been quite some time since I picked up the Daily News on a regular basis.

Hard to recall exactly when, but at some point there became too many places to get the news and sports I wanted faster and for free. I’d been a Daily News loyalist since the days when Larry Merchant ran the best sports page in the country, but time had now become too valued a commodity. If I only had time for one legacy reading habit, it would have to be the New York Times.

Still, like Tastykake Krimpets and songs by the Delfonics, I never lost affection for the Daily News. I’d look for specific Daily News writers on philly.com, and when something big happened in the city, or when the Phillies or the Sixers were on a tear, I’d search out a Wawa, spring for a hard copy and find a quiet place to spend 15 minutes turning the pages old-school style.

Now, though, this naked yoga deal has me thinking I may have thrown down my last buck for a Daily News. The nude cover (the accompanying story included only a glancing reference to any nude yoga action in Philadelphia) was clearly cooked up to seduce impulse buyers.  But instead of seducing this impulse buyer, it had the opposite effect—it repelled.

It was as if Beavis had wandered into 400 N. Broad, grabbed Gil Spencer’s old seat in the ghostly newsroom and ordered Butthead in features to come up with a nude front page.

What’s worse, the story that should have been played on the cover of the Tuesday Daily News was hiding in plain sight right on page seven: 2 TEENS DIE IN HAIL OF BULLETS.

That story told how two kids, 17 and 18, had been riding an all-terrain vehicle, a vehicle stolen from upstate Pennsylvania, on the city streets at eight o’clock at night when they were suddenly hit with automatic-weapon gunfire. Thirty shots were fired, including the shots that killed them. There were no suspects.

The shootings had all the requisite elements for a Daily News story. How did an all-terrain vehicle get here from upstate Pennsylvania? What were these kids doing riding it on the city streets? Who was toting the automatic weapons? Why did they open fire? And, most critically, of all: Are you shitting me? What the hell is happening to our city?

The blending of the DN newsroom with the Inquirer is underway and a new set of new owners is showing up any day with all kinds of new ideas guaranteed to be painful. It’s sad and it’s debilitating, granted.

Still, the reputation of the Daily News is at stake. What made the Daily News loved through the generations, not just by Philadelphians, but by fans of the printed word everywhere, was its overarching intelligence.

It made mistakes, real doozies, but institutionally, as a way of life, the Daily News didn’t play lowest common denominator journalism.

It never took the armpit view of life, favored to this day by the New York Post and the New York Daily News. It didn’t pit the city’s white working-class against people of color to solidify a reader constituency.

If these are indeed the waning days of the Daily News, let’s hope those in charge remember that Yogi Bear became a star because he was smarter than the average bear. It ain’t a bad legacy.