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NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - The New York Daily News, the city's scrappy, 99-year-old tabloid, is laying off half of its editorial staff, as U.S. newspapers continue to struggle with sharply declining advertising revenue and readership, it said on Monday.
The cuts at the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily paper, known for eye-catching front-page headlines and taking on the city's power players, including real estate developer Donald Trump long before he was elected president, drew criticism from both average readers and politicians who bristled at how the paper covered them.
Owner Tronc Inc said the cuts are intended to make the paper a stronger competitor online.
"We are reducing today the size of the editorial team by approximately 50 percent and refocusing much of our talent on breaking news - especially in the areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility," Tronc said in a memo to staff.
The Daily News employed about 85 journalists prior to the announcement, according to rival New York Post, owned by News Corp.
Sobbing staffers were seen leaving the building at midday.
Outrage over the cuts filled social media.
"It's no secret that I've disagreed with the Daily News from time to time," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter. "But Tronc's greedy decision to gut the newsroom is bad for government and a disaster for NYC. Tronc should sell the paper to someone committed to local journalism."
The Daily News has won 11 Pulitzer Prizes over its history, for work ranging from a 2017 investigative series with ProPublica on misuse of eviction laws in the city to the commentaries of Jimmy Breslin.
Its peak weekday circulation was 2.4 million in 1947 and it once sold more copies than any other newspaper in the United States. But that had plummeted to 200,000 by the time Tronc purchased the paper for $1 in 2017.
It is known for one of the most famous newspaper headlines in U.S. history, "Ford to City: Drop Dead," following a 1975 speech by President Gerald Ford that denied the city financial aid as it tottered on the brink of bankruptcy.
The New York layoffs are the latest in a series of cuts at Tronc's media holdings. In April, the company laid off several dozen staffers at the Los Angeles Times, a month after a round of cuts at its flagship property, The Chicago Tribune. (Reporting by Barbara Goldberg, Additional reporting by Franklin Paul and Brendan McDermid; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)