Jun 4, 201210:03 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Downsizing the Times-Picayune: Why "Young People" Will Be Hurt Too
Here’s a point that many people are missing about the whole Times-Picayune downsizing debacle. I have heard the comment frequently that younger people do not read newspapers. They prefer their electronic devices. The problem is that someone still needs to generate content and no one has done that better than daily newspapers. The dailies traditionally had large staffs with beat reporters who became specialists in their areas. They have also had senior editors with memories that go back past the previous spring’s graduations.
Newspapers covered the boring stuff as well as the big stories, but at least there was someone keeping an eye on public life. Without the dailies all that is gone. Web sites cannot afford big staffs or detailed investigations, nor are they compatible for longform reading.
What is happening to the Times-Picayune is not just another case of an esteemed business closing. This is not like losing Katz and Besthoff or Maison Blanche; rather it is more like the police department slashing the number of cops on the beat by one-third, or hospitals being closed.
Dailies are part of how a community works. Without them the mechanism for informing the public is severely compromised. Those people getting their news electronically will still get headlines but, without an adequately staffed newspaper, the follow-through will be shallow. Also, dailies have long been a source of leads for the other media. They too will suffer.
What the Newhouse corporation, which is hiding its cover under new corporate names, has done to this city is an urban tragedy. We know this is supposed to be the future, but the Times-Picayune was too good of a newspaper and too successful of a moneymaker to treat this way.
Unless there is a miraculous change in policy, for whatever positive image Newhouse may have had in the past its reputation will forever be defined by its own man-made disaster in New Orleans.