Sensational pictorial coverage and the pursuit of attention-grabbing front pages helped make the New York Daily News become America’s most prominent newspaper in the early 20th century. In the middle of the Roaring Twenties, the newspaper established itself as the biggest in the country. At its peak in 1947, the newspaper had over 2 million readers daily and reached almost 5 million on Sundays.
In the 21st century, however, with the internet becoming ubiquitous and print newspapers becoming more redundant, the New York Daily News lost most of its prominence. By 2016, the readership dropped to below half a million for the first time in almost a century.
Dr. Matthew Pressman has been a professor at Seton Hall University since 2016. He teaches courses like Writing for the Media, Contemporary Issues in Sports Journalism, Feature Writing and The History of American Journalism.
During the Spring 2024 semester, Pressman will take a sabbatical leave. During his time away, he said he plans to conduct interviews and gather information for his next book, which will delve into the history of the New York Daily News.
Pressman graduated from Boston University with a doctorate in history but was always intrigued by journalism.
“I think a really important part of any free and open society is to have quality journalism,” he said. “I had a pretty keen interest in news of all kinds, and loved the idea of being able to find stuff out and communicate it in a way that would make many people want to read or watch or listen.”
Prior to a career in academia, he spent eight years working as an assistant editor and online columnist for the Vanity Fair magazine. He currently writes for mass-media outlets including The Atlantic, TIME magazine, and The Washington Post.
In 2018, Pressman released “On Press: The Liberal Values that Shaped the News.” This award-winning book covered the history of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times in the 1960s through the 1980s. The book mainly chronicles the transformation of the American press at that time. Pressman said the 20-year span he covers in the book included some of the most notable events in American history that those specific newspapers covered.
Pressman said he felt it was important to tell those stories. He was able to conduct many interviews with the people who worked for those newspapers and found valuable archival research to help him write and complete the book.
Pressman explained his choice of the Daily News for the topic of his next book is important for many reasons, including that there “was never a more popular newspaper in America, and it sold more copies than any other.”
“It has been kind of overlooked because it was a tabloid,” he added. “A lot of people didn’t take it seriously and thought it was too focused on sensationalism and entertainment.”
However, the readership and statistics prove that the New York Daily News was the most read and printed newspaper of that time. Even if people didn’t take it seriously, the numbers indicate that it had an engaged audience.
“I think it had a big influence on its reader’s world view, on the political culture of the United States and the history of New York City,” Pressman said. “I’m amazed at all the drama that went on, and how central the paper was to a lot of the big things that happened in New York and America in the 20th century.”
He plans to use his research, including interviews, to help bring these stories to a modern audience. Pressman said he is essentially telling the story from the perspective of the people who worked for the Daily News.
There is no specific release date for the book, but Pressman said he will try to aim for some time in 2025. It will be published by Columbia University Press, and he is still working on the title.
More information about Pressman’s work and updates regarding his next book are available on his website.
Victor Lisboa submitted this article from his Writing for the Media course. He can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.