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 gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.


Reader Comments:
Jan 13, 2013 11:55 pm
 Posted by  progersnola

Is there any possibility of an act of eminent domain against the Newhouse people? If not, why not? The city could buy the TP and sell immediately to Tom Benson. Would it take more than one local judge? And wouldn't it make a great story at least?

Jan 14, 2013 11:04 am
 Posted by  cw_photo

You're STILL writing about this tiresome topic that is no longer newsworthy? Change is inevitable. Time to move into the future by embracing change, and finding something more interesting to write about as to keep your readers engaged. Maybe an epiphany about the real topics that are impacting our community, like the continued high crime and murder rate in New Orleans, or the huge political divide that exists in our state and country.

I mean, gosh - YOUR articles are delivered to me online instead of being thrown on my porch each morning. Isn't that enough for you to realize paper newspapers are antiquated when your own job has moved to the future?

10 years from now, no one will even think to suggest we bring back a physical newspaper and we will all be living comfortably with the advance of technology that will deliver our information to us without killing trees or creating more waste, or delay. No one will even think it a good idea to have to wait until 6am for yesterday's news to be delivered when the rest of us have already been informed of the latest topics hours before.

Jan 14, 2013 03:08 pm
 Posted by  Errol Laborde

Errol Laborde replies:

I have continued to write about this topic for several reasons:

1. I get plenty response to it, not just on the internet but verbally.

2. This is the one major issue in the community (unlike crime and the murder rate which everyone covers) that the major editorial voice has been silenced-- that of The Times-Picayune.

3. A frequent criticism of the news media is that they eventually lose interest in a story and then move on, although the public issue remains. Follow-up is good. (Steve Newhouse even made reference to when the "noise” stops.)

4. What is happening in New Orleans is a test case for what can happen around the country.

5. There are many interested people, particularly former employees of The Times-Picayune, who would like to speak out on this issue but cannot because their severance arrangement prohibit "disparaging" comments.

6. I do not accept that what has happened to The Times-Picayune is the only solution for dealing with the internet. There must be alternatives.

As for the future, I think there is a way for print and the internet to co-exist, just as radio, which once seemed doomed to extinction because of television, found its niche.

This is an important public issue that deserves continued discussion.

Jan 15, 2013 10:27 am
 Posted by  Bill H.

It certainly is an important continuing public issue. I have not lived in New Orleans since 1957, but it still is a large part of who I am, and I cannot imagine the city without the TP. It is an essential part of the city's history and current culture. What has happened is a public disgrace to the city. Newspapers are light, easier to carry around than any electronic gizmo, much easier to read, to skip around in, to fold, bend, cut, and mutilate, to not worry that someone is going to snatch it away from you and run off with it, to not have to plug in or you have nothing. So you miss a few hours of overnight news? Here in Cape Town, there is a morning and an afternoon paper, and the first edition of the afternoon paper is on the street by 9:30 am with the overnight news in it. So nu? Yes, I read the NYT electronically, but I would not dream of reading the local news that way. Trees are are a renewable resource; coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power are not. It sounds like the Newhouses are doing the same thing in several different cities. They should sell their newspapers to locals, for they really want to be in the electronic communications business. Maybe they can join up with Tina Brown, and maybe she will let them run some of her minor projects other than the brave new world of Newsweek.

Cape Town Bill

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde


Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.




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