Jul 16, 201210:09 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Times-Picayune Fiasco: What the Citizens Told the Newhouses
Last week a group of 70 or so prominent locals sent a letter to the Newhouse family urging them to sell The Times-Picayune. Among the signees were the university presidents, Tom and Gale Benson, James Carville, Cokie Roberts, the two arches (the Archbishop and Archie Manning) and many more people of influence. Response to the letter, as reported in The Times-Picayune, was swift.
Donald E. Newhouse, president of Advance Publications, was quoted as saying:
"We have read the letter with great respect and concern. Advance Publications has no intention of selling The Times-Picayune."
Well at least he didn’t call it “noise.”
Still, even in rejecting the letter, the Newhouses should have gotten a reading of the contempt that there is for them because of what they are doing to New Orleans. The words were strong and should be taken seriously:
Citizens Group to Newhouses
• "If you have ever valued the friendship you have shared with our city and your loyal readers, we ask that you sell The Times-Picayune. Our city wants a daily printed paper, needs a daily printed paper and deserves a daily printed paper.
• (The goodwill Newhouse had built over 50 years has) "dissipated in just a few short months because of the decision that took our entire community by surprise. Advance Publications and its leadership have lost the trust and credibility of a significant segment of the community."
• (The decision has) "already created the impression that our recovery is so tepid that we cannot support an important civic institution like a daily newspaper."
And to me, the strongest statement of all:
"If your family does not believe in the future of this great city and its capacity to support a daily newspaper, it is only fair to allow us to find someone who does."
There was also a reference in the letter to the citizens group having a buyer.
To the Newhouses all of this hubbub may be nothing more than harmless peasant restlessness in one of the colonies. They, after all, are insulated and have wealth and power. What they do not have is public support, and that may be prove to be the most powerful force of all.