By: Joe Strupp
Newsday in Melville, N.Y., is replacing its editor, Howard Schneider, according to a staff memo circulated by Publisher Timothy Knight. Schneider’s departure comes in the wake of a major circulation scandal and expected cutbacks at the Tribune Co.-owned paper.
According to several Newsday staffers, including former columnist Jimmy Breslin, Schneider had lost the support of some staff members.
“Over the past few weeks, Howie Schneider and I have had discussions regarding the future of Newsday. It became apparent that we have basic differences in how best to position Newsday for the future,” Knight said in the memo. “In recognition of that, he has made the decision to step down as editor of Newsday. I have named John Mancini executive vice president and editor, effective tomorrow.”
Schneider had worked at the paper for more than three decades, replacing former editor Anthony Marro 14 months ago when Marro retired. Mancini, who rejoined Newsday in 2001 as metropolitan editor of the New York City edition, had previously worked at the paper in various roles, while also spending time at The New York Times and the New York Post during his career.
Schneider, who did not return calls from E&P seeking comment, also issued a statement to staff.
“It has been a painful decision, but one that became increasingly apparent because of fundamental differences between Tim and myself about the direction of the paper,” his statement read. “I have spent 35 years here. I love Newsday. It is the time for me to go. The past several months have been extraordinarily difficult. I cannot adequately express my appreciation for the encouragement and support — even prayers — many of you have offered me. And I cannot adequately express how proud I am of the terrific work all of you have done. In moments of doubt, my optimism was always rekindled by the energy and vitality I felt as I moved through the newsroom (especially on Friday mornings, when the bagels arrived!).”
Several editorial staffers, including Breslin, said they were not surprised that Schneider was being forced out after just 14 months in the top newsroom post, citing clashes with staffers over daily coverage and mounting pressure to work with fewer resources.
“He did nothing,” said Breslin, who recently ended his regular column, but is still under contract to the paper. “He didn’t have the E for excitement. He made news dull.”
“My sense is that he was not prepared to make the hard cuts that (Newsday owner Tribune Company) wanted,” said one longtime reporter who requested anonymity. “He wasn’t getting the message that the paper was in trouble — editorially and financially.”
A high-ranking editor, who also did not want to be identified, agreed. “There was a great difference of opinion as to the direction of the paper between him and the publisher, and the publisher is the boss,” the editor said, referring to Knight, who has been in the post since July. “Newsday is going through a lot of problems and the publisher is in a different direction.”
One columnist was not as subtle, saying Schneider “created a frenzy and everything was 100 miles an hour.”
But Editorial Page Editor James Klurfeld praised Schneider, calling him “one of the most creative editors you could deal with. Just brilliant.”
Knight could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
The departure of Schneider, who met with staff this morning, comes in the wake of a major circulation scandal and another expected buyout at the Tribune Company-owned paper.
Breslin and others praised Mancini as a top editor among all New York papers. “He is the single best person in the news business to create excitement,” Breslin declared. “He is the best.” Columnist Ellis Henican echoed that view. “He is the best editor of his generation,” Henican said. “He has great instincts about what is interesting in a story.”
Buyouts were not expected to be announced at today’s meeting, according to sources. But word is that the buyout offer, which would be the second this year and would be open to all full-time staffers, will be made official Wednesday or Thursday.