NEW YORK, July 14 -- The staff of New York Newsday was told to report to work Saturday for the last time before the newspaper ceases publication after 10 unprofitable years. The staff was given one day's notice Friday that the last edition would hit the newsstands Sunday after the paper failed to run in the black in New York's superheated media market. 'There will be no New York Newsday as of Monday,' said Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Murray Kempton, 77. 'A lot of guys and a lot of very good guys and a lot of guys that Western civilization can use are all going to be looking for work the week after next.' New York Newsday Editor Donald Forest, 62, captured the emotion of the shutdown when he told his staff through tears, 'It was clear today the decision had nothing to do with journalism.' Night editor Kurtis Rist said the New York edition of the largely successful Long Island Newsday failed to realize the profit expected. He said the publishers wanted to turn a 14 percent profit, but after an investment of $100 million the paper lost at least $4 million a year. Ultimately New York Newsday lost the competition for readership. Circulation was 40,000 when the paper first began publishing in 1985, then shot up to 300,000 during the 1991 Daily News strike, only to subside to 200,000 after the strike was settled, said Rist. Recently readership had risen to 231,000, but the gains were not enough. 'Newsday's plan during the Daily News strike was to become 'The' New York City tabloid, but the Daily News had other plans,' said Rist wryly.
New York Newsday was also up against the New York Post for tabloid readership and the staid broadsheet New York Times, as well as a gaggle of neighborhood daily and weekly newspapers. About 800 staffers, including press operators, reporters and editors will be either laid off, bought out or absorbed into Long Island Newsday, its sister paper, Rist said. 'Everybody is as stunned as you can be because they were preparing for something different,' he said. Rist said Mark Willes, Times Mirror's recently-named president and chief executive officer, ordered the paper to answer, 'Why do you exist, and...ordered them to come up with a plan by August to cut costs. ' The shutdown caught everyone off guard, Rist said. After the order was given, Willes said in a statement, 'We have concluded that in spite of its excellent editorial content the opportunities for New York Newsday to earn an appropriate of return are limited.'