The Trib died yesterday after three months competing with The New York Times and The New York Daily News and The New York Post, a victim of its failure to create a distinctive, attractive image and a loser in its hopes that unions would strike its competitors.
New York's newest daily paper became short-lived late yesterday afternoon after a board meeting at which the paper's backers declined to continue providing financing. Editor and Publisher Leonard Saffir said more than $4 million and been spend on the paper.
Saffir told the staff, which had been working on today's edition: "There will be no Trib tomorrow."
"With a miracle, perhaps in the days ahead we may be able to put this paper back together," Saffir said.
Although the timing of Saffir's announcement came as a surprise, the Trib was sickly from its beginning Jan. 9. When it appeared to be collapsing for lack of funds in its first week, Raymond J. Learsy, president of Agricultural and Industrial Chemicals Inc. made a sizable investment, which led Saffir to announce Jan. 17, "Our financial footing is sound."
The initial press run of 260,000 grew smaller and smaller. At the end, it was reported that the Trib was selling only 70,000 copies daily and had reduced the press run to 100,000.
On Monday, the telephone company disconnected the Trib's phones because the bill, which sources said was $70,000, was unpaid. After quick negotiations the phone company agreed to remove the recorded message announcing that the phones were out of service and to allow incoming calls. Outgoing calls were only possible on six or eight telephones.
"That was just symbol of the problem," one staff member said yesterday. "The moment the strike [of other New York newspapers] didn't happen, everyone here on the editorial side began to get very worried."
The Trib had 112 news and business employes who were not represented by a union, and it was printed in Somerset, N.J., at a plant that would not have been affected by strikes against any other New York papers.
The Trib hoped to gain exposure and a large number of permanent readers while other papers were struck and shut down. The March 31 deadline passed without a strike, although the Times, News and new York Post are still negotiating with their unions.
March 31 was also the last payday at the Trib. The money was not available to meet another payroll, one source said one of the reasons for closing down yesterday.
In his brief remarks to his staff as the members of the Trib board stood behind him, Saffir said that this winter's shows, the heaviest in years, which often prevented distribution of the paper were a major factor in the Trib's failure, as was lack of advertising by the city's large department stores.
Many thought that the Trib would be a strong conservative voice because among its directors were James Buckley, a former conservative senator, for whom Saffir had worked.
The Trib did not emerge witha strong image of any kind, however. It relied on wire services and syndicated features for most of its copy and never made itself much of a talked about entry in the city.
Saffir said yesterday that there was only a remote possibility that the Trib would be sold. Learsy had been looking for a buyer for the past several weeks, according to well-informed sources, without success.