Jan 13, 201311:14 PM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Times-Picayune Fiasco: Why the Newhouses are Wrong – An Epiphany
Last Wednesday, during the week of the Feast of the Epiphany, I had my own epiphany about why the Newhouses' treatment of The Times-Picayune is such a disaster. I was returning home that evening and noticed a white splotch on my lawn. I stopped and realized it was The Times-Picayune. And then it hit me, I had forgotten all about going outside to get it in the morning. It is starting to happen. As we are being weaned from the ritual of picking up the morning daily on the porch, we will gradually forget which day it is for the T-P, not necessarily the Sunday issue, but the other two, which are, I think, still Wednesday and Friday.
(Here The Advocate’s daily presence might actually help the T-P. Those people who subscribe to both papers will see their T-P when they go to get the other. That doesn’t work for me though because I get The Advocate at the office.)
Now the Newhouses may rejoice in their self-generated loss of visibility for their newspaper because they think that will drive us to their website. Maybe sometimes, but depending on the story there are many other websites including those for the television stations. The Newhouses have effectively diminished the monopoly they once had.
Whenever national media, such as “60 Minutes,” covers the story, there is always a statement of inevitability. This is the way it will be, they say; it stinks – but it is the future. The problem with that reasoning is that is assumes that the Newhouse plan is the only alternative. Clearly newspapers face challengers because of the Internet, but there was no reason to rush in New Orleans. (This just in – every business faces challengers from new technology.) Had the T-P gone to five times a week people might have understood. Had they reduced their size, people might have understood. Had they done some more budget cutbacks, people might have understood. But what they actually did was so drastic that it is hard to understand. If they were losing money, they could have cut their loses by selling, as locals were begging them to do.
In a few weeks New Orleans will become the first city without a locally published daily newspaper to host a Superbowl. A week later tourists will be coming for Carnival. Some will notice that there is no locally published newspaper on Mardi Gras or the day before. In a period of economic triumph for the city, the Newhouses will be doing their part to make us seem small time – the Ann Arbor (where they first inflicted their plan) of the South.
An editor’s message in the T-P on the same day as the "60 Minutes" report extolled the good works that have been done by the newspaper since the Oct. 1 cutback. There are indeed good people who have survived at the T-P capable of doing quality reporting. I just fear that they are working on a wobbly platform undermined by the company’s owners.
They deserve better; the city deserves better. Note to Newhosues – if you announce that you want to sell, people will be in the streets rejoicing within sixty minutes.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival-Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via email at email@example.com or (504) 895-2266.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M.WYES-TV, CH. 12.