The Daily News was founded in 1919 and was the first United States newspaper to be printed in tabloid format. It reached its peak circulation of 2.4 million copies per day in 1947. Today it is the eleventh-most circulated newspaper in the nation.
The Daily News grew up in an age when America was at the height of its empire, and it was able to capitalize on a growing interest in American politics. It embraced the motto “To fight like a tiger” and it emphasized the role of government to protect New Yorkers’ interests, especially during the Great Depression.
Its emphasis on the welfare system and its efforts to expose welfare cheats, along with its coverage of crime and human-interest stories, often made it seem more politically right-wing than other newspapers of the time. It also tapped into deep veins of populism and ethnonationalism that had long been powerful forces in American politics, such as the idea that New Yorkers were a monolithic race.
In the 1950s, as many other publications dwindled and Hearst’s papers were in decline, the Daily News became the primary voice of right-wing opinion. Its readers, the right wing’s most faithful and devoted, found it a more reliable source of news than many other newspapers, and they shaped the paper’s agenda to match their own political views.
During the Zuckerman era, the paper was a strong advocate of the Republican Party and its candidates, including George W. Bush in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2012. The Daily News’s politics were more moderate to liberal than those of the Washington Times-Herald, Reader’s Digest, or Hearst’s other newspapers, but its conservative slant did not stop it from being the most influential right-wing paper in the country.
This was because it was a largely right-wing, racialized newspaper that had an enormous audience in New York City. It also drew on a larger network of informants and tips than the other major newspapers in the area.
For example, in 1957, when President Eisenhower proposed a bill to increase military spending, the Daily News called it “The New Socialist Policy.” It criticized it as an attempt to stifle free enterprise and cut government funding. It argued that the bill would lead to more government jobs being given to whites and less to blacks.
The same year, the paper published a letter that argued against affirmative action in government hiring. It said, “No job should be earmarked for Blacks unless there is a job earmarked for Whites.”
These letters were far more likely to reflect the racial prejudice of their writers than to have any actual violence, but they still expressed a wariness or resentment against non-whites, especially African Americans. Some even advocated lynching or discrimination in public housing.
The Daily News has a unique place in history. It was the first newspaper to be founded in New York City and it was a leading force in right-wing politics during an important period of the nation’s history. Its influence on political opinion cannot be underestimated, and it deserves to be studied in detail.