Sep 17, 201207:34 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Times-Picayune Fiasco: Numbers for the Newhouses
In the spirit of election year, if the Newhouses were trying to count votes measuring support for what they are doing to New Orleans here are my own informal poll results for the metro-region, rounded to the nearest whole number:
No kidding. Just about everywhere I go people talk about this controversy and I have yet to find one person who supports the idea. Usually for any cause there is at least one contrarian to take an opposite view, but not this. There are a few fatalists who mutter than this may be the way of the future, but even they are not ready for that future to start Oct. 1. There are no well-known citizens publicly supporting this. (Indeed many have signed letters begging the Newhosues to sell.) There has probably been nothing as unanimously despised since the yellow fever epidemic.
As for the one vote in favor, using the latest Doppler polling techniques I can zero in and identify it as belonging to Ricky Matthews, the “publisher” sent to town by the Newhouses to be the implementer. Last week The American Journalism Review published an article about The Advocate newspaper moving into the market. Matthews was asked to comment:
As for The Times-Picayune, its reaction to its new rival is essentially, bring it on. "We publish an outstanding, award-winning newspaper and our website NOLA.com is the #1 news site in the state," Ricky Mathews, president of NOLA Media Group, which includes the paper and the Web site, wrote in an e-mail to AJR. "We welcome the competition."
Hey Mr. Matthews, a couple of points: There has been an “outstanding, award winning” Times-Picayune, but it was not “we” that published it, but “they” back when Ashton Phelps, Jr. was publisher and before you came to town. True, there are some good people that have survived the latest purge, but much talent has been lost. An example: That great eight-part series on prisons was clearly Pulitzer material, but as soon as the “noise” started, Cindy Chang, the talented reporter who wrote the story, left for Los Angeles. There will no doubt be some good work done in the future but there is no longer the depth and frequency for the paper to be what it was, back when “they,” not you, were in charge.
As for NOLA.com being the number 1 website in the state, that is because there has always been the daily Times-Picayune to drive users to it, but you are about to lose that presence. Meanwhile the TV stations, and other media, are gearing up to ehnance their visibility. (By the way, did you know that The Advocate is also creating a New Orleans targeted website?) Within the next year, the numbers in website usage will shift. Even if you still lead, the margin will have diminished just as the newspaper’s frequency has.
Finally, whenever Mathews, or a Newhouse, trys to convince us what a wonderful world it will be, the one promise that they cannot make is that The Times-Picayune will be daily. They can talk about the past, and they can gush about the web, but they are denying us a home-published daily, and there is the rub.
Hey Newhouses, did you ever notice that anytime there is a national story about this fiasco the point is always made that New Orleans will be the largest city is the nation without a daily? Why us? Why a city that supported its newspaper? Why a city trying to rebuild itself during a major recovery effort? Subscriptions to The Advocate are now available.