By: George Garneau
Possibly taking the fall for a blown deadline, New York Daily News executive editor James Lynch has been on ‘vacation’ for a month and nobody’s discussing his job future sp.
OFFICIALLY, NEW YORK Daily News executive editor James Lynch was into his third week of “vacation” after the newsroom blew its deadline and the paper arrived late at newsstands during a circulation audit.
Editor Martin Dunne insisted that Lynch was on vacation and said his name remained on the masthead.
Unofficially, Lynch’s future with the Daily News was dubious until his name came off the masthead April 15.
Dunne dismissed as “a lot of bullshit” a Newsday gossip column item reporting that “production foul-ups” delayed the Daily News two hours the night of March 17 and caused “tens of thousands of copies” to go unsold on a day that the Audit Bureau of Circulations was auditing sales.
Newsday said “heads were rolling” the next day at the Daily News by order of owner Mortimer Zuckerman and Lynch was “cleaning out his desk” along with some midlevel sports and business editors.
In an interview, Dunne denied that Lynch was fired, that deadlines were missed and that papers were late.
“We came out fine that night,” he said.
The following Monday, March 21, Dunne said, Lynch “went on vacation.” He did not know where Lynch was earlier this month and when asked if the leave was voluntary, he hedged, saying, “I don’t think you tell people to take a vacation.”
At another point, Dunne said Lynch “got himself another job” but could not say where.
Privately, several Daily News staffers said they thought that Lynch had been offered the option of staying at the paper but with a demotion.
Lynch, who was at a local airport when he returned calls recently, declined to comment except to wish the Daily News well. His answering machine said he was away.
As for the other desk staffers, sports editor Kevin Whitmer said, “No one in sports was fired and no one in sports was called on the carpet or reprimanded or anything.” He said he was questioned about what happened and explained.
He conceded that the sports section was “a few minutes late, which is not unusual,” especially for the opening night of the college basketball playoffs.
After Newsday reported that Daily News sports editors were cleaning out their desks, Whitmer said, sports staffers called to find out if they had been fired, and job seekers sent r?sum?s. He called the report “irresponsible and totally inaccurate.”
One staffer attributed the delay to a shortage of hands in the composing room.
Newsday quoted an unnamed Daily News source as saying, “They wanted to set examples. The word from the top was that anyone involved in the screw-up had to take it on the neck. The king wanted heads.”
Of course, all these events occur as part of a long history of New York newspaper sniping, in which the three remaining tabloids delight in questioning each other’s reporting, gleefully cover each other’s financial and legal traumas, and shamelessly raid each other’s newsrooms.
Lynch was among a trio of top editors who defected en masse from the New York Post as it teetered on the brink of collapse during bankruptcy proceedings last year. Among them was Lou Colasuonno, whom Zuckerman hired as editor but later superseded when he hired Dunne as editor in chief.
One source said the incident had the desired effect: Nobody was missing deadlines anymore.
Lynch, who was at a local airport when he returned calls recently, declined to comment except to wish the Daily News well.