Many of the victims were recognizable and beloved on-air figures: Shelley Goldberg, the station’s parenting correspondent; Neal Rosen, the entertainment critic with the Big Apple-based rating system; and a travel correspondent, Valarie D’Elia, among others. The cuts — which also included some of the news channel’s programming — did not appear to involve anyone from the station’s hard news operation.
“It’s almost like a second New York family: the people I relied on to get through the day,” said Darice Moyre, shaking her head, in a coffee shop in Astoria, Queens. She said she was familiar with many of the people who had been let go.
“To me it just looked as if they wanted to put their efforts elsewhere,” said Ms. D’Elia, who said she was not surprised by the changes. Still, she said, it remains to be seen what will happen when “a lot of these people who people loved aren’t on the air.”
Whereas the quirky station, with programs like “The Call,” where any New Yorker could call with a gripe, had operated with the understanding that its value was derived not from ratings or advertising dollars, but from the benefit it offered in keeping local cable subscribers, the station’s new managers came in with different ideas, employees said. “The Call” is soon to be canceled.
At an all-hands meeting after the merger in December, employees were told that Charter’s news channels were going to have to start making money, employees said.
“They said that these news products lose money and our mission is to stop that from happening,” said one, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the company.
Other changes have been afoot. Steve Paulus, a founder and longtime chief executive, left in September.
And the most local of all local news stations began to change in small ways (though it has sister stations in other cable markets like North Carolina, Texas, and upstate New York, NY1 is available primarily within New York City). A news ticker runs along the bottom of its frame with national and international headlines. A sidebar listing upcoming segments is visible during the day, similar to one used by the sports juggernaut ESPN.
Of course, NY1 has never been known for its large staff. Its reporters have had a reputation for years for setting up with a tripod and camera to film themselves.
Other employees had been let go in recent weeks, the employee said. It is unclear if more layoffs are forthcoming.
The station’s parent company described the changes as part of a re-orientation away from cooking, movies and travel programming, which it said were deeply saturated by digital content online, toward “more money, more content and investigative original programming.”
“We are focusing our efforts in areas where we see the highest viewership and value for our customers,” the company said in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman.
The company held a meeting for reporters on Thursday afternoon, perhaps having gotten wind of some grumbling, an employee said. Employees were told that there was not a big enough audience or ad sales for much of the station’s programming, the employee said.
On the air constantly in buildings around the city, at Police Headquarters and City Hall, in diners and doughnut shops, elevators and waiting rooms, NY1 has provided a certain visual accompaniment to the chaos and banality of life in the city. Without the pressure of advertising breaks or paid programming, the station could snap into live coverage in a moment, often making it the first channel to get breaking city news on the air.
It was this characteristic news hustle on the scene of disasters that earned NY1 and its reporters cameos in films like “Night at the Museum,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Elf.”
And the channel has stood out during major events like the Sept. 11 attacks, when it had one of the first phone interviews with then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Hurricane Sandy.
It has inspired perhaps the most loyalty among some of its viewers.
“It’s part of having a cup of coffee or having a doughnut,” said Tommy Mamounas, 36, the owner of the 7th Avenue Donuts in Park Slope, Brooklyn, who said the station’s apolitical treatment of neighborhood news, weather, and traffic served the needs of his clientele of cops, firefighters, families and other neighborhood workers.
Still, it was not quite a rave.
“It’s kind of like the background music in an elevator or a doctor’s office,” he said. “You might ignore it, but when it’s not there you notice something is missing.”
Sam Roberts, a veteran New York Times reporter, said his Saturday night NY1 program, The New York Times Close Up, had been canceled.
“The downside was you never got any feedback, the upside was you never got any interference,” he said of his show. Of the channel, he said some changes to the station could make it better. “I don’t think they were creative enough.”
Local news coverage has long been on the wane in New York City, as newspapers like The Daily News, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times invest less in neighborhood-level coverage. Even the popular digital local news organization DNA Info laid off some of its more experienced reporters recently, before merging with the website Gothamist.
Perhaps some perspective was offered by Erol Edo Dervisevic, 17, who was eating lunch at a restaurant in Astoria, his cellphone on the table. He said that the news about NY1 wouldn’t really affect him.
“I get my news from social media,” he said.