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New York Sun Closes And Another Feisty Voice Is Lost

September 30, 2008

The editorial in the New York Sun was historic in tone, as the short life span of the paper was printed in turbulent years.

What a run. A newspaper founded by a company that was scheduled to be created on September 11, 2001, announces its last issue on September 29, 2008, the day of the largest one-day point drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It’s easy to forget the boom years in between that were bracketed by the terrorist attacks and the financial crisis.

Readers know I am one who feels very sorry for the state of the newspaper industry.  When a newspaper fails and goes out of business, we all lose.  Such is the case today with the demise of the New York Sun.

The editorial announcement to the news staff was emotional and resonated with the main news to be found on any front page of papers around the country.

I tend to be an optimist and held out hope for a favorable outcome as late as mid-afternoon today. But among other problems that we faced was the fact that this month, not to mention this week, has been one of the worst in a century in which to be trying to raise capital, and in the end we were out not only of money but time.

The New York Sun was a conservative paper with an editorial page that favored free markets and capitalism, and the absence of that voice, though not alone on that point of view, nonetheless served as an important voice in New York City and will be missed.   More than once the feisty editorials they printed were considered ‘must reads’ around the country.  When a voice such as this is silenced we all have one less source for insight and perspective.

The final editorial summed up the the last day for the paper with not only a glance backwards, but forward as well.

So while this is a sad day for the Sun’s editors and employees and readers and backers, and a worrisome day and month for those many, many New Yorkers whose fortunes are tied to the financial markets, we end this project marveling at what a land of opportunity America is and what an open and dynamic city New York is. A few little-known editors and reporters managed to win backing for a project and nurse it to the point where — and we are very touched by this — even our competitors are saying it made a difference in the national and local debate and won the respect of the city’s leading citizens.

One of the things we were often asked about The New York Sun, these past seven years, was what made us choose the name. To remind ourselves of the answer we kept in our editorial rooms, hanging on a wall opposite a portrait of Frederick Douglass, the last number the Sun issued, on January 4, 1950, before the paper was passed on to Roy Howard for merger into the World Telegram. It carried on the front page a statement by its last publisher, Thomas W. Dewart, who wrote of the Sun: “Throughout its career it has supported Constitutional government, sound money, reasonable protection for American industry, economy in public expenditures, perseveration of the rights and responsibilities of the several states, free enterprise, good citizenship, equality before the law, and has upheld all the finer American traditions.

“It has opposed indecency and rascality, public and private. It has fought Populism, Socialism, Communism, government extravagance, the encroachments of bureaucracy and that form of governmental paternalism which eats into the marrow of private initiative and industry. With respect to all these things, we may proudly and truthfully say that we have fought a good fight …”

That is the part of the front page that visitors to the Sun often look at and that was quoted by the New Yorker in a piece that appeared in the magazine as we were starting, which noted that aside from the protectionism it wasn’t a bad encapsulation of what we are about. But what we like most about that last front page of the old Sun is not the statement of editorial ideals, admirable though they are, but the news stories that accompany it.

“Dewey Pledges No Tax Rise, Hits Truman Health Plan,” was one. “Dewey Asks City Rent Law” is another. “Mercury at 59.8 Sets New Mark,” was another. Taxes, national health care, New York City rent control, global warming — these were the issues in 1950 and they are the issues of today.

Situations change of course, and added to the mix has been the great debate over foreign policy and the war. We are struck with each crisis — including the one that has beset our markets, when the temptation is running strong for so many to take the statist bait, though not once did we consider asking Washington to bail out the Sun — of the importance of guiding principles.

We can only hope that some day in the future our own record will inspire some new generation of newspapermen and women with dreams to pick up the flag that today we put down. We hope it doesn’t take 50 years for the next new start, but even if it does take that long, we hope that they have as much fun as we have had and meet with as much success.

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