At ‘Daily News,’ staffers gather hoping to hear Colin Myler’s vision for the paper
Scroll to the bottom of this article for updates.
Colin Myler's first half-year as editor-in-chief of the Daily News has seemed, from the outside, relatively subdued.
With his name still entangled in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal for which there appears to be no end in sight, the 60-year-old tabloid veteran managed to maintain a low profile even as the vultures in the press corps swirled above his head.
He's given nary a quote to any of them, save the carefully-crafted boilerplate he offered The New York Times' Amy Chozick after his paper was accused by Jim Dolan—the chairman of Madison Square Garden and C.E.O. of Cablevision, which owns Newsday—of "intimidating" Dolan's company with negative Knicks coverage.
At the same time, the early days of Myler's tenure didn't bring much of the tumult and bloodshed that often go hand-in-hand with such changings of the guard. There have been no mass layoffs, no drastic organizational shakeups apart from some isolated firings and hirings here and there, and no lengthy internal memos about strategy or the direction the News is headed in under Myler's charge.
And so Myler, a former New York Post lieutenant and the editor of News of the World until News Corp. shut it down last year amid the rapidly metastasizing allegations of corruption within the conglomerate's British papers, remains something of a mystery to many of the journalists on his staff, perhaps apart from the inner circle of high-level editors and writers whose jobs require some degree of close interaction with him.
That's why everyone at 4 New York Plaza has been eagerly anticipating the all-hands-on-deck meeting that was called for 3:30 today in their Financial District headquarters.
"All, Please join us for a Daily News Town Hall on Tuesday, July 24 from 3:30 – 4:45 p.m. in the building cafeteria," said a July 16 email from Myler and News president and C.E.O. Bill Holiber. "Look forward to seeing you."
A spokesman for the News did not have a comment about the meeting prior to its start-time. And sources were in the dark about what exactly would be discussed.
But considering the entire staff, not just the editorial side, was asked to attend, one would expect a "State of the Paper" type of presentation. (See update below for details from the meeting.)
On the one hand, it would seem a forum in which to prep the troops for any rough seas that may be on the horizon or to break news of any major changes that might be coming down the pipe. And with Holiber there, it's expected that the business side of the operation will be addressed, too.
On the other hand, it gives Myler a soapbox from which to articulate some of the changes he's quietly implemented over the past seven months, like crafting a punchier print edition that's not afraid to editorialize on the wood once in awhile, or to give compelling feature stories a home in the front of the book; a more image-heavy, nationally-focused website that's attempting to ensnare new readers from throughout the U.S. with a mix of shock-news, celebrity gossip and women-in-bikinis photos (both pretty and ugly); and of course the occasional editorial stunt, a stock-in-trade of tabloid culture that was no doubt familiar to Myler during his years at the more salacious Post and News of the World.
Perhaps Myler might also introduce some of the talent he's recruited in what seems like a bid to make the News more attention-grabbing. The most notable hires in that department are fellow Britons Ted Young (the former editor of Mail Online) as digital editor, and Alexander Hitchen (the former National Enquirer reporter and News of the World alumnus who broke the John Edwards scandal wide open) as photo director.
Of course not everyone at the paper, which continues to produce local and neighborhood news that appeals to its core working-class print readership, is pleased with the imprint Myler's put on it so far. And some remain wary of his past leadership at a tabloid known for stretching the bounds of honest journalism to their limits.
But everyone seems to agree the place seems more alive than it did during the brief reign of Myler's predecessor, Kevin Convey.
"It's no longer the Daily Snooze," said one staffer, making a reference to the pejorative by which Post reporter Keith Kelly often refers to the News in his media columns.
We'll have to wait and see if they still feel as sanguine after today's meeting. We'll update as we learn more.
UPDATE: Holiber and Myler, dressed in suits, appeared on a small stage around the scheduled 3:30 start time. The session began with Holiber introducing Myler to the assembled staffers, according to sources. Holiber also apparently made a joke about people having their phones turned on to record the meeting. (Maybe he was alluding to this item?)
So far we're hearing that Myler and Holiber spoke for about 30 minutes, focusing on two things: Daily News America, which is the paper's recently-unveiled national web vertical/site re-design, and a still-gestating small-business initiative called Daily News Solutions that will consult on and provide services for third-party digital products.
Myler said additional journalists would be hired for Daily News America. He stressed that the News was committed to being a media company that invests in quality journalism, according to people who were present.
Around 4 p.m., the floor was opened up for a Q&A session.
Questions were raised about things like the paper's local editions, which Myler and Holiber said were not going anywhere. (As in they have no plans to discontinue them.) One person asked if there were plans to scale the print edition back from seven days a week, as was the recent fate of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and several other Newhouse papers.
Holiber's answer: "We've never even considered that scenario."
They also said there were no plans to change the newsstand price, as the Post just did. Asked about celebrity content in the paper and on its website, Myler acknowledged that such coverage had become more prominent while also stressing that the News continues to break stories across all beats, and that gossip was not becoming the focus.