The strange saga of ''The New York Post'' -- Is this the death of the nation's oldest tabloid, or a movie in the making?
”It’s like a Frank Capra movie!” says dazed New York Post newshound Bill Hoffmann, in one of countless movie comparisons the paper’s current perils have inspired among staffers. ”The underpaid masses swelling up and taking over — this truly is our newspaper.” The paper has already become a national TV show, too: Day One, World News Tonight, and a host of others have made The Post Saga a staple on the evening news.
The 192-year-old tabloid, founded by Alexander Hamilton, was taken over by madcap multimillionaire Abe Hirschfeld in mid-March during bankruptcy proceedings that threaten its survival. But when Hirschfeld fired 70 or so employees, including editor Pete Hamill, the staff refused to leave. On March 15, the rebel newsies seized control, cramming the Post with stories hailing Hamill, blasting Hirschfeld as a ”nut,” and repeatedly detailing his outrages — a report of an incident in which he spat on a reporter was headlined, PART OF HER JOB WAS TAKING A GOB FROM ANGRY SLOB.
On March 16, Hamill recaptured his office in triumph. Colleagues phoned and faxed congratulations from South Africa, London, L.A. ”All of a sudden we’re a superprestigious publication,” marvels reporter Ransdell Pierson.
”You could write a history of this republic by writing a history of this newspaper,” says Hamill. Boasts reporter Timothy McDarrah, ”The President reads the Post every day. Everyone in the U.S. has heard of it — HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR, GRANNY EXECUTED IN HER PINK PAJAMAS.” Such a tradition is worth risking careers for. ”The humor of the situation is very like The Front Page,” says crime reporter Mike Pearl, who worked with Walter Winchell. ”But it’s more like Deadline U.S.A., with Humphrey Bogart. They’re trying desperately to get out one last expose before the paper closes; the story is eerily similar. We’re all fired, we should be looking for jobs. But we want to stay and see how this movie comes out.”