The Chicago Daily News, (circulation [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a 103-year-old afternoon newspaper that has been fighting an energetic but losing battle to win back readers over the past two years, may announce as early as tomorrow that it is shutting down.
According to sources at the paper, the management was ut on notice by the board of directors of Field Enterprises after a Monday board meeting during which the board was briefed on the financial situation of the paper.
Althogh sources on the board say no final decision has been made on the future of the paper, two board members said privately that the board urged "an imminent solution" to the still growing financial losses of the paper.
The Daily News is published by Field Enterprises, which also publishes the morning Sun-Times (circ. 581,000). Newsroom sources at both papers say that top editors of the two publications have been holding extraordinary meetings since Saturday, reportedly working on consolidation efforts.
The Sun-Times has long been a profitable morning tabloid. The rival Chicago Tribune (circ. 752,000) folded its afternoon counterpart, Chicago Today, in September 1974, and began publishing an all-day Tribune.
But last Monday the Tribune ceased afternoon delivery, giving the subcribers affected home delivery of the morning paper. That decision reportedly made the financial condition of the Daily News even more precarious.
Since there were previously two afternoon papers, distributors, who handled both, were able to split the trucking costs between the two. But now that the afternoon Tribune has ceased delivers the Daily News is faced with the full delivery bill.
It has been about a year and a half since Field hired James Hoge to be editor of both newspapers. At that time it was reported that Hoge was given two years and $2 million to turn the losing afternoon operation around.
Hoge made several highly publicized changes at the two papers, including a virtual closing down of the foreign reporting operation and an expansion of the Washington Bureau, as well as a dramatic physical change in the appearance of the Daily News.
The changes included the additon of several news sections on specialized topics such as fashion, food, homelife and the arts.
But the moves have not halted the drop in circulation which has plagued the Daily News, along with almost all other big city afternoon newspapers. In 1967, Daily News circulation was almost twice what it is now.
Sources at the Daily News said publisher Marshall Field is planning tomorrow to tell the staff that unless certain economic changes can be imposed immediately, including possible pay cuts on the part of the staff the paper will cease publication [WORD ILLEGIBLE] February.
Negotiations for contracts of employes of both Field papers are scheduled to begin shortly with the present contract due to expire this spring. Some reporters at the Daily News think that management may be posturing in an effort to force contractual reductions in wages and benefits.
Field Enterprises president Charles Stauffacher said in a telephone interview from Chicago that he could not comment on the rumored closing because "it's a legal matter now . . . but no decision has been made."
Meanwhile, the Daily News called several television stations to cancel an advertising campaign that had been kicked off only this week.