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‘Queens Man Impeached’: A Paper Gives Trump the Local Treatment

A series of headlines have brought attention to the Queens Daily Eagle, a small outlet in the borough where the president was born.

The Queens Daily Eagle gained traction on social media for its impeachment coverage on Wednesday.
Credit…The Queens Daily Eagle

  • Jan. 14, 2021

The trilogy is now complete.

Shortly after the House of Representatives impeached President Trump and charged him with “incitement of insurrection” on Wednesday, the Queens Daily Eagle, an outlet that covers the borough where Mr. Trump was born and raised, offered its readers a decidedly local spin on the news: “Queens man impeached — again.”

The opening paragraph continued in the same vein. “A Queens-born real estate developer made history Wednesday when he became the first U.S. president ever impeached twice by the House of Representatives,” it read.

The Queens Daily Eagle had gone with local-angle treatment twice before in its coverage of major Trump news. “Queens man impeached” was the headline for its Dec. 19, 2019, article on the first impeachment. On Nov. 7, 2020, the paper did a callback — “Queens man evicted” — to note Mr. Trump’s election loss.

All three exercises in dry newsroom humor drew wide attention, bringing recognition to a two-year-old publication that got its start when the local news industry was in crisis.

“People love it,” said David Brand, the Queens Daily Eagle managing editor. “It’s a self-parody of local news, and I think people get that.”

He said the idea of casting the president as just another onetime borough resident came up in a 2019 meeting with two former staff members, Jonathan Sperling and Victoria Merlino, both of whom have since left journalism. Mr. Sperling came up with the first “Queens man” headline.

“I just wanted to add a little humor into what had been a couple of rough years,” Mr. Sperling, 23, said.

He called the response to the first “Queens man” story “mind-blowing,” noting that Rachel Maddow had highlighted it on her MSNBC show.

“Does it really matter that he’s from Queens?” Mr. Sperling said. “Maybe not. But the point still stands — there’s always a local angle.”

Mr. Trump was born in the borough’s Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and grew up in Jamaica Estates, an enclave partly developed by his father, the real estate executive Fred C. Trump.

The first edition of the Queens Daily Eagle was printed on June 25, 2018. The only English-language daily newspaper in Queens, it is a sibling publication to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a paper that started in 1841, closed in 1955 and was revived in 1996 by Dozier Hasty, the owner and publisher of Brooklyn Heights Press.

Mr. Hasty is a co-publisher of the Queens Daily Eagle with Michael Nussbaum, a longtime public relations executive, political consultant and former publisher of the Queens Tribune. The Queens Daily Eagle, which also has a website, gets by with a bare-bones staff. The managing editor, Mr. Brand, said he was one of two newsroom employees.

Mr. Sperling said he was excited to see the latest “Queens man” headline gain traction on Twitter, with 4,000 retweets and more than 17,000 likes, but he added that financial support would do more good than social media engagements.

“If 1 percent of the people who like this tweet gave $5 a month to the Queens Daily Eagle, it would be enough money to pay a single reporter for a year,” he said. “Queens has a variety of cultures and languages and ethnicities and over two million people, and we just don’t have the news representation.”

Mr. Brand, 33, said Wednesday’s headline had helped raise the profile of a paper that covers Queens courts, transportation, neighborhood politics and social issues. “People come to the website because it’s gone viral, because some celebrity has posted it,” he said, “and they see, ‘Oh, they actually do really substantive writing as well.’”

The paper’s impeachment coverage held the local note throughout the Wednesday article, stating toward the end that Mr. Trump was the third president to be impeached by Congress — “and the first from Queens.”