Larry Platt’s Last Days At Daily News Accompanied By Heavy Sigh Of Relief… And Then More Heavy Sighing
To put it mildly, these have not been good days at the Daily News. Morale has never been lower (read this Gail Shister piece and wince along) due to the constant threat of layoffs and other exits, as well as various old-guard disgraces (see the Bill Conlin scandal and Byko‘s odd sex tourism pieces), and the fact that, well, business is bad. But it’s even worse than that: The People Paper, which on a good day can still bark like a junkyard dog (that’s a compliment, by the way), is hampered by what is arguably the worst website in the country for a major market daily news outlet. Even if the DN wanted to grow its web fortunes, the present Philly.com structure, which gives no real DN identity to the pieces it publishes for free and buries the rest behind a paywall that reeks of failure, will take a long time to correct. And by then, it may be too late, and perhaps it already is. Hell, the Daily News even got left off the sign at the new headquarters, with brass so over the paper already that they actually thought nobody would notice the omission.
Amidst all this, there is/was the matter of DN editor (funny aside: we actually just mis-typed the non-word “enditor” and thought, “well, no that is wrong, but yes, that is right”) of Larry Platt (pictured). After an 18-month run that saw him neither rehab The People Paper into FailyMag nor bring truth to the conspiracy theory that he was hired to, once and for all, drive the paper into the ground, Platt slid his resignation under the door just before Memorial Day weekend. His last day is this Friday (suggestion to DN staff: an erotic cake) and we talked to a couple of people close to the paper to get the vibe of what exactly Platt’s final days there sounded like. In true Platt style, they’re not bangs or whimpers; more like a silent but deadly fart left in an elevator that only goes down.
While Platt did have his champions at the paper, we were told, they were in the minority. “There were definitely some unprofessional yelling matches he had with some folks here that burned any chance he had of getting people to like him,” one source told us. This echoes much of what we heard when Platt parted ways with PhillyMag a couple of years back. Conversely, the news immediately following that of Platt’s departure — that beloved DN stalwart Michael Days would re-assume the editor’s chair — seems to have inspired a much-needed spike in morale. “He’s been a DN guy for 30 years, and he’s obviously a fantastic journalist/people person/editor,” said the same source. Interestingly, though, each conversation we had for this post wound up with sources talking, unprompted, about what the DN would need to do not just to survive, but to turn around completely. At issue in each case was reversing the deathly effects the web has visited upon daily rags in general, and specifically, how poorly Philly.com has served the Daily News: “They put someone atop there with some go-getter-ness, they’d destroy. End of the day, though, it all comes back to a horrible website.” One can’t help but wonder: Beloved as he is, does Days have it in him? Or again, is it too late? For his part, Platt is said to be retreating to his previous occupation as a sports author, working on a bio of Phils fave Jamie Moyer, a man for whom, ironically, there has never been such a thing as too late.