New York's newspaper strike began 12 weeks ago with predictions of disaster for businesses and theaters.
"The Press Blackout Haunts Gotham." wrote the theatrical trade journal Variety.
But Gotham came through smiling and those smiles may now haunt The New York Times, Daily News and Post.
Although it is easy to find a New Yorker who misses his newspaper, it's almost as easy to find a "good news" story or a disaster prediction unfulfilled from the strike. The major losers were the newspapers and their employes.
Some euphoric Yankee fans belive their team wouldn't be the world champions without the newspaper strike. They claim that New York's sports writers would have provoked another feud between Reffie Jackson and Thurman Munson or another pair of contentious Yanks that could have cost the team a game - just enough to give the Red Sox the Red Sox the Pennant.
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"We've heard that theory," a Yankee spokesman said, "but we started our winning streak when the papers were still publishing."
New York not only got a championship during the strike, but its retail sales held steady, theater and movie attendance was up, restaurants thrived and hotels were jammed.
Only employment agencies, which couldn't handle their usual volume of turnover in lower-skilled jobs, and book publishers, who suffered without New York Times book reviews, were casualties of the strike, according to city and business officials.
Department stores, theaters and others, however, poured advertising that traditionally went to the newspapers into television, radio and magazines during the strike and their successful survival is going to lead to many reassessments of advertising strategy when the newspapers are all back.
Richard Parr, of the League of New York theaters and Producers, said the last long newspaper strike in 1966 "pushed theaters into TV advertising for the first time." Broadway has been doing an enormous amount of television advertising during the strike, but it's too early to say what the permanent effect will be, Barr said.
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Variety reported this week that the-ater attendance was 17 percent above last year's for the first 11 weeks of the strike. Weekly attendance was 168,000, compared to 144,000 a year ago. The trade paper predicts "a continuing in crease in electronic advertising even after all the papers are printing."
Even worse news for the Times and Daily News could come from the department stores.
When the strike began, the city's Office of Economic Development looked back to the 1962-63 newspaper strike, during which retail sales were off 10 percent, and estimated that stores would lose as much this time around-perhaps 5 million a day.
The large stores, whose full-page ads are regular features in the newspapers, protected themselves from losses by a successful switch to television, radio, magazines and alternative papers.
Their enforced experience with a different advertising mix has given them new ideas for the future, according to several department store spokesmen who did not want to be quoted.
Advertising agencies also didn't suffer. Most major agencies only place 10 to 20 percent of their ads with newspapers, according to New York Chamber of Commerce and industry compilations.
Television stations not only happily took the new wave of advertising that came their way, but increased rates during the strike by as much as 50 percent. Despite the higher rates, local stations reported they sold almost all their available time.
Other publications also prospered. The Long Island paper Newsday, fat before the strike, became a Sunday monster that no newsboy without shotput experience could throw onto a front porch. Suburban papers in New Jersey and Westchester grew proportionately.
Publisher Rupert Murdoch's weekly Village Voice and New York magazine swelled, with the Voice becoming the principal available forhm for classified ads. These gains helped ease the paon of having the Post, which Murdoch also owns, closed down.
The residential real estate market suffered slightly according to a spokesman for the Real Estate Board. But people denied classified ads turned to real estate brokers for their apartments and houses, and the brokers thrived.
Stock brokers did even better, thanks to huge market volume.
Stock trading was unaffected by the strike, since the Wall Street Journal was still providing its daily stock tables - selling twice as many copies in New York as before the strike.
Neither the Times nor the Daily News will say how much the strike has cost them. Murdoch put his loss at $2 million total, not substantially more than if he had continued to print and lose money at the $150,000 a week rate it is estimated his ailing paper usually suffers. One estimate based on advertising and circulation revenues was that the Times lost about $5.6 million weekly and the Daily News about $4.9 million weekly in uncollected revenues. The papers saved large payroll and newsprint costs, however.
The 1,500 pressmen who went on strike and the 8,500 other newspaper employes who refused to cross the pressmen's picket lines lost wages of more than $3.5 million a week at the three papers.
In addition to the possibility that some advertising may never return, the papers feared as the strike began that some readers would give up the habit of buying a paper.
They helped establish three interim papers in order to preserve their home delivery systems, which had been injured during the 1966 strike. But newspaper executives acknowledge that it is inevitable they will not resume publication with the combined 3.3 million circulation the three papers had on Aug. 8.
When the newspapers were closed for 114 days in 1962-63, the strike was estimated to have cost New York's economy $258 million.
Any figure for this year almost certainly would be lower. New Yorkers appear to be learning better how to live without newspapers.