The Daily News and American Politics

Daily News

In its time, the Daily News was the largest and most influential tabloid newspaper in the world. It drew readers with sensational coverage of crime and scandal, lurid photographs, and cartoons. It also argued for a conservative view of the city’s role in America’s social hierarchy. The News positioned itself as the champion of New York City and its working class, fighting for the interests of city residents in a way that other newspapers were reluctant or unable to do.

While the News drew its largest readership from middle and lower class whites, it was not an overtly racist paper. However, it did often eschew “civil rights” issues and favored stories that appealed to white racial anxieties, including the fear that integrated neighborhoods would reduce property values and lead to the loss of their homes.

A broad worldview of reactionary populism infused the News’s editorial viewpoints and news coverage throughout the post-World War II era, well into the Zuckerman era. Even if the News did not have as great an influence on elections or public policy as some of its opponents, it nevertheless shaped and reinforced the political worldview of its readers. It tapped into deep veins of populism and ethnonationalism that were powerful forces in American politics.

The News’s reactionary worldview is a part of the story of the rise of conservatism in the United States in the post-World War II era. But while scholarship on conservatism has emphasized publications with large circulation, such as National Review and its fellow travelers, the Daily News—and similar mass-circulation newspapers such as the Washington Times-Herald and the Hearst chain—are often overlooked. This makes the Daily News particularly worthy of study for the way it influenced American politics.

Like Buckley and his compatriots, the Daily News attacked the bureaucracy, diplomats, taxes, and regulation of the federal government as an evil in our midst. Its attack on the New York City Police Department, its call for the city to ease development restrictions, and its emphasis on privatizing municipal services were all hallmarks of a reactionary approach.

While the News did not endorse or vote for political candidates, it did favor Republican nominees for president in its later years. Its stance on the Cold War and support of the war in Vietnam were part of its larger reactionary worldview. It is hard to determine whether readers purchased the News in spite of its reactionary positions or because of them, but they certainly were reflected in their political choices.