Gossip Guy: The Life and Times of the Daily News’ Dan Gross
When I first started writing the column, there was competition: Jessica Pressler at the Weekly, A.D. Amorosi at the City Paper, Klein at the Inquirer. Then there were blogs like Philebrity, which nobody reads anymore, Phawker, and most notably HughE Dillon’s PhillyChitChat. But none were one-on-one, head-to-head rivals like Klein had been.
Eventually social media became my greatest rival, as Facebook and Twitter really took off. Instead of calling me with celeb spottings, Jane Doe could simply tweet out that she saw Jessica Simpson having dinner in Old City. A restaurant or business or tourist attraction could post its own star sightings and photos. The speed with which tips and information were spreading forced me to operate even more intensely on a 24/7 news cycle. Early on, I would hold something back for the column or a blog post—but then other people started tweeting it. Eventually, Twitter was where I—along with everybody else—ended up breaking stories.
Twitter was both a blessing and a curse. When I left the paper, my account with the Daily News had 13,500 followers, more than anybody outside of sports at either paper. But I wondered how many of those people ever clicked the links I would post to my stories on philly.com. I had a tangible sense that I was reaching fewer people in the paper, or online, every day. The power of curated gossip had been vanquished.
I cried as I told my colleagues that I had decided to take a voluntary separation package offered to employees in January. After my 14 years at the Daily News, figuring out a new direction was the right decision, but that didn’t make it any easier. I know I will never recapture the energy in that newsroom when a big story was breaking, or the humor when colleagues tried to outdo each other in coming up with funny, sick headlines.
In truth, I think my emotions had already been spent back when the papers left our iconic headquarters on Broad Street last summer. Cleaning out our offices in order to move to the new building on Market Street took a lot out of many of us. I had spent my entire adult life walking into the newsroom on the first floor of 400 North Broad Street. Leaving that building for the last time struck me more than leaving 801 Market when I wheeled two postal tubs full of clippings, notebooks, toys and trinkets out on my last day.
Before I left, Klein said he would like to have lunch. I said sure, but didn’t think it would ever really happen. Then he texted me in April, and we met up. I have never lunched with someone whom I had maligned more; I can’t count how many times I called him a profanity-laced name to a source or colleague. But not three months after I left the Daily News, we sat sharing baby stories and photos over a meal. Because who has time for spite and negativity? Namaste.
I remember walking to work on one of my last days at the paper, listening to hardcore punk band Minor Threat. I played the song “Salad Days” on repeat. I wanted to quote the song in my farewell column, but I didn’t. It seemed too bitter:
Wishing for the days when I first wore
Baby has grown older
It’s no longer cute
Too many voices
They’ve made me mute
Baby has grown ugly
It’s no longer cute
But I stay on, I stay on
Where do I get off?
On to greener pastures
The core has gotten soft.