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Pete Hamill Wakes Up the Daily News, Reports the Columbia Journalism Review

Independence, Good Writing, Humor and Attention to Immigrants Is Rescuing the Paper from Bitter Years
Pete Hamill is bringing the New York Daily News back to health. An analysis of his first months as the paper's new editor, published in the May/June issue of the Columbia Journalism Review just out, finds: Hamill has achieved editorial independence from publisher Mortimer Zuckerman; The paper has dropped its go-slow approach to negative stories about the Giuliani administration; Its depressing view of city life has been lifted; It has humor; It is paying attention to readers other papers have largely ignored - new immigrant populations; It looks fresh, will soon get color and may already be making a modest profit. The CJR article by contributing editor Bruce Porter notes that Hamill, appointed last January, had the task of rescuing a paper whose demoralized staff had suffered years of changing ownership and bitter labor troubles. He started by encouraging lean and lively writing, Porter says, printing tough stories on city agencies and giving city life a lift. "There was too much writing stuck it seems to me in the years of the Crack Plague," he quotes Hamill in an interview. "Too many cop stories, too much bleak writing that made you feel no hope. In fact, the city itself, as you walked the streets, had a positive feeling to it that it hadn't had in a long time." Importantly, Hamill increased the paper's coverage of new immigrants - Russians, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Koreans, East Indians, Arabs, Turks, Mexicans, Dominicans. He hired reporters who speak Russian and Korean, started a monthly magazine for Caribbean readers and appointed an editor to coordinate coverage of every major ethnic community, Porter writes. This is the audience that can return the paper to its glory days above the million-circulation mark, Hamill believes. "In terms of the long run it's gotta be the immigrants and their children - that's our future," Hamill tells Porter. "In the process of our writing about them, they're going to realize that we are the newspaper of all the American papers that they should begin to read. If we can get that job done, and do it with some sort of humor and style and verve, I think we can put out the greatest goddamn tabloid there ever was." ##