How bad are things at the Daily News? New York Times-bound Wendy Ruderman, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner, is urging her colleagues to jump ship.
âI hate to say it, but if people at the Daily News arenât looking, they should be,â says Ruderman, whose swan song is Thursday. âIf theyâre not, itâs kind of stupid âŚ This place is rudderless.â
Rumors of the DNâs imminent demise are nothing new. This time, however, it feels real, Ruderman, 42, says. Under new owners (again) and with circulation plummeting, everything is in flux as the DN and the Inquirer prepare to relocate to smaller headquarters downtown.
âMorale couldnât get any worse,â says Ruderman, who joined the DN in 2007 from the Inky, where she was about to be laid off after four years. âNobody tells us anything. Weâve been through this before, but for the first time, it feels real. Itâs scary.â
Ruderman starts at the NYT on June 4th as police bureau chief. Based in One Police Plaza, sheâll help direct as well as report daily coverage of crime and cops. In addition to a substantial raise, she received a signing bonus from the Times.
For winning the 2010 Pulitzer for investigative reporting, she and colleague Barbara Laker shared a $10,000 check. From the Daily News, each got a $1,000 bonus. No raise.
âI thought we should have gotten a raise,â says Laker, 54, Rudermanâs best friend and soulmate. âItâs not like Wendy and I make a lot of money. I understand times are tight, but you do hear of other people getting raises.â
Rudermanâs and Lakerâs “Tainted Justice” exposed a rogue Philadelphia Police narcotics squad, resulting in an FBI probe and the review of hundreds of criminal cases tainted by the scandal. The duoâs book, Midnight in the City of Brotherly Love, is to be published in February by Harper Collins.
Ruderman spent the last two months in the newsroom openly job-hunting, she says. âI was very vocal about it. I would discuss my wardrobe for interviews.â
Despite two tempting offers from the Washington area, she couldnât say no to the Times. âWhat reporter wouldnât work for the New York Times? I fell in love with them. When I walked into that building, I couldnât get over it.â
When Ruderman informed her editor [Gar Joseph], she says she broke into tears of ârelief, happiness and sadness.â Were there counter-offers from the DN? âGod, no,â she says with a laugh. âThe reaction was, âCan you take us with you?ââ
For Ruderman, the tipping point came in February, she says. As she was leaving her gym, she got an email from a colleague alerting her that the New York Post had just broken a story that the papers were back on the block.
âI felt sick,â she recalls. âRight then and there, I thought, âIâm outta here.â I couldnât take the stress anymore. It was one thing after another. I have a family. Iâm the breadwinner. If the shit hits the fan here, Iâm the one responsible for figuring out how to make money.â
Ruderman and her husband, freelance web designer Karl Moser, live with their two young sons in Haddon Township. Theyâre house-hunting in North Jersey. She is no stranger to New Yorkâshe was born on Long Island and has a masterâs in journalism from Columbia.
Rudermanâs departure will leave âa giant holeâ in the DN newsroom, Laker says. âEveryone looks up to her and sees her as a leader.â At a personal level, itâs worse. Both she and Ruderman say they cry whenever the subject comes up.
âSheâs practically like my wife,â says Laker, a divorced heterosexual with grown children. âI trust her with every bone in my body. She knows everything about me. We practically lived together when we were doing the book. We finish each otherâs sentences.
âItâs rare to have a friend like that. I feel like Iâm getting divorced.â