The New York Sun, launched only last month, is the newest newspaper in New York. It is determinedly old-fashioned, however, in feel and appearance. It even uses the same masthead and slogan — “It shines for all” — as the original Sun. The original had a long and distinguished run until it met the same sorry end of so many other New York dailies: slow decline, desperate attempts to stay alive, and then the inevitable passage to the big newsroom in the sky. Indeed of the seven New York dailies that were still around in the 1960s, only the Times, Post and News survive, and the last two are losing money. It has long been rumored that one or the other will die.
But here is the Sun, bravely setting out in a decidedly tough market, and a very good thing it is, too. The Sun is giving New York a different voice. Think of it as a sensibly conservative newspaper with man-in-the-street populist leanings. The other day, for example, it had a front-page story on the bureaucratic hurdles a cafe owner in Brooklyn must overcome — endless red tape, culminating in an absurd 17-page questionnaire — before the city will allow him to put chairs and tables on the sidewalk where his customers can sip cappuccinos.
The story, by Benjamin Smith, was very well done, and just beneath it was another piece, also very well done, by Caroline Waxler, about a bodega owner in Manhattan. He said he worked seven days a week, sometimes up to 16 hours a day, and that he made about $1,500 a month. But soon, he says, his income may be cut in half. Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to raise the city tax from 8 cents to $1.50 on each pack of cigarettes.
But cigarettes make up a big part of bodega business, and as the bodega owner said, “Bloomberg doesn’t go to bodegas. In his mind, he thinks, ‘What’s a bodega? Is it the name of a social club?'” He then suggested that Bloomberg stop by, and learn about life in a bodega.
New York’s other dailies do not do many stories like that. Indeed the Times, with its plethora of lifestyle sections — the newest is called “Escapes” — seems to be increasingly edited for people who make $400,000 a year. Meanwhile the Sun takes a sly delight in pointing out a certain, shall we say, hypocrisy, in the Times.
The Times, for instance, denounced the decision by Stanley Tool Works in Connecticut to move its corporate headquarters to Bermuda and Barbados to take advantage of lower taxes as “unconscionable” and “outrageous.” But “what’s really unconscionable and outrageous,” the Sun said in an editorial, presumably written by its president and editor, Seth Lipsky, “are the high tax rates in Connecticut and America as a whole that are causing American companies to flee.”
And as the Sun added: The New York Times Company, “which is headquartered in New York, has no less than 28 separate subsidiaries…that are organized in Delaware for business reasons just as logical as the ones that drove Stanley Tool Works to Bermuda.”
This is pretty good stuff, and New York is all the better for hearing it. Nonetheless you do not measure the Sun, which has been publishing twelve-page editions, and has a press run of some 60,000, against the mighty Times. In fact, most readers of the Sun, I suspect, will also read the Times.
So you measure the Sun‘s coverage against the News and the Post, especially the Post, which also professes to be a conservative paper. The Post is always fun to read, and the city would be poorer without it, but the Sun, in its way, is more serious.
Thus the lead story in the Sun one day last week: Cultural organizations in New York denounce the city’s budget cuts. (Actually the Sun was ahead of the Times on that.) The Post, however, led with a double suicide under a quintessential tabloid headline: “A last kiss — then these two lovers walked to their deaths.”
The day after that the Sun led with a piece on the state budget by William F. Hammond Jr., its very knowledgeable Albany reporter. Meanwhile the Post, to its discredit, had a screaming headline, “Bush Knew,” suggesting the president was forewarned about September 11.
The day after that, the lead story in the Sun was about a presumed face-off between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. Giuliani has endorsed Republican Senator Bob Smith for re-election; Mrs. Clinton is backing Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. The Sun thought this was some kind of preview for the 2008 presidential race, which it probably wasn’t, but at least the Sun was being imaginative. The Post that day devoted virtually its entire front page to a piece about a brownstone that collapsed on East 61st Street.
Anyway, you wish the Sun well and hope it will be around for a long while to come. It has a distinctive voice, and surely it fills a need. Meanwhile it also has been running a Washington column, “The Bully Pulpit,” by one R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. He seems to be a newcomer to daily journalism, but if you ask me, the kid definitely shows promise.