Rocking Deck at Daily News

Television critic David Bianculli, a 14-year veteran, was the latest casualty: The Post reported on Aug. 22 that he was “about to get the boot.” In fact, the News did offer him a renewal, but the terms were “a reverse Godfather,” said Mr. Bianculli. “They gave me an offer I couldn’t accept.”

Mr. Bianculli declined to discuss the details, but said, “Without putting any aspersion on anyone, I can say that I don’t fit in with their future plans.”

“Tastes change,” Mr. Dunn said. “We live in a fickle society and what’s in vogue six months ago, is not in vogue now. Quite honestly, features has had a turnover. But there had been very little movement for many years.”

“There seemed to be a lot of attrition through fear and intimidation,” said one former News staffer, who asserted that Ms. Healy would open feature department meetings “by berating and lambasting everyone.”

A current staffer agreed: “People are getting dressed down in front of their peers. … I don’t think anyone here feels secure.” Another News staffer said that since the early summer, “there are résumés out everywhere.”

So even though the newspaper market is choppy, at best, veteran investigative reporter Richard Pienciak left for the Associated Press in July, and Los Angeles bureau chief Michelle Caruso joined Star magazine.

But that’s life at Mort Zuckerman’s Daily News, and has been for years. In his 11,500 word July 23, 2007, profile of Mr. Zuckerman in The New Yorker, writer Nick Paumgarten wrote: “One symptom of perpetual dissatisfaction at Zuckerman’s publications is the turnover in editors. U.S. News has seen eight editorships in 23 years; the News, seven in 15. … It is not so much that the editor fails to fulfill the mission as that Zuckerman decides that the mission needs changing.”

So between Mr. Zuckerman’s Steinbrennerian history and with Post columnist Keith Kelly regular goading that Mr. Dunn’s contract at “The Snooze” is up next month, it’s no surprise that staffers are uncertain about life at the paper.

“My contract is not up next month,” Mr. Dunn said. “I signed a long-term contract.”

However, Mr. Dunn’s recent three-and-a-half week vacation through most of August helped grease the rumor mill. A decade earlier, former editor Pete Hamill left for a vacation toward the end of summer, and never returned to the newsroom.

“I’ve finally taken a chunk of vacation that I’m entitled to,” said Mr. Dunn, adding that he happens to work “very long, very hard.”

“If that causes speculation” he said, then News staffers have “got no work to do.”

Rocking Deck at Daily News