The Daily News and Its Role in American Politics

Daily News

Founded in 1919 by Joseph Medill Patterson as the Illustrated Daily News, the New York Daily News quickly became the largest newspaper in the country. It attracted readers with sensational coverage of crime and scandal, lurid photographs, and cartoons. The News also carried out a significant amount of local government reporting and public service journalism.

The paper’s editorial page frequently addressed a wide range of issues in ways that were both populist and reactionary. Its targets included bureaucrats and diplomats, taxes, regulation, communists and their supposed fellow travelers, and the perceived corruption of politicians.

While the News’s editors often used language that would seem racist to modern audiences—for example, in 1965 one editor praised a man lynched for murdering a black burglar and in another article argued against earmarking government jobs for Blacks—the newspaper did not make it its mission to promote racial hatred. Instead, it tapped into deep veins of populism and ethnonationalism that were long-running forces in American politics.

In a time when mass-circulation newspapers were all losing ground to more sophisticated and ideological competitors, such as the National Review and the Chicago Tribune, the Daily News’s worldview and editorial tone gave it an especially powerful role in shaping the political discourse of the day. The News tapped into the widespread sense of anxiety, alienation and threat felt by many in postwar America. It also appealed to a sense of regional identity and pride rooted in its New York City origins.

The News cultivated the image of being more than just an information source, earning its nickname “the Tiger Paper” in the process. In an editorial on the anniversary of its fiftieth birthday, it vowed to fight like a tiger “for the best interests of New York City and its vast metropolitan area.”

Despite the News’s broader appeal, it was still a local paper and in many respects its focus remained focused on its readers. The paper did not attempt to address all of New York City’s problems, but it sought to champion those areas that its readers deemed most important—housing, transit, and other quality-of-life concerns. But these demands came with a conservative twist: ease restrictions on development, let the police do whatever they want, and encourage private enterprise to provide city services (as well as legalized gambling to fill municipal coffers and avoid raising taxes).

Each Daily News article is accompanied by comprehension and critical thinking questions. These questions are based on the article and the accompanying resources, including maps and video clips. We encourage teachers to use these materials with their students. Click on the “Resources” button below each question to see a list of additional sources for further reading and study.