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:

   
           Against--- 1,000,000
           For--                1
 
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.
                                                

                                                             -30-
                     

Reader Comments:
Sep 17, 2012 10:58 am
 Posted by  wigs

Errol, thanks so much for your ongoing coverage of this debacle. I truly believe that the Newhouse family is trying to reduce the value of their assets to effect future estate tax issues. Carpetbaggers, yes. Journalists, no.

Sep 17, 2012 11:06 am
 Posted by  laprofe

I agree with all your commentary about the TP. I have convinced many people to switch to the New Orleans Avocate...and I have been a loyal T-P subscriber for 40 years!

Sep 17, 2012 11:50 am
 Posted by  jjles

I got a letter from the T-P the other day saying that my monthly subcription price for home delivery will be a whopping $2.00 less for the 3-day a week delivery. Guess what--I'll pay $0.00 when I cancel entirely!

Sep 17, 2012 04:37 pm
 Posted by  CowboyinBRLA

A few years back, we up here in Baton Rouge were cut off from daily delivery of the Times-Picayune, as they were going to a newsstand/paper box only distribution system up here. In vain I asked them to reconsider, especially since the distribution team in Baton Rouge was coming INTO my building to service a machine there; a few steps more and he could have dropped a paper at my door, one I was willing to pay for. But no - they refused, and as I don't often carry change, I simply got out of the habit of buying the paper at the machine. It's not even serviced any more.

I could tell then it was only a matter of time. The Newhouses, by and large, are not journalism people; they bought into publishing because they thought they could make a few (or a lot of) bucks, but they might as well (for all they cared) have been buying a sausage factory or a clothing store. The point has always been "How much money can we make?".

And as such, they do not consider the subscribers and the people who go to the paper boxes their "customers". Their "customers" are the advertisers and they believe their mission is to get ads in the hands of as many people as possible; and they don't think a daily paper is the way to do that any more.

It wasn't always thus. There was a time when the publishers believed that the news was the product, the readers were the customers and the ads were a way of funding the enterprise. Now it's the ads that are the product, the advertisers are the customers, and the news is the loss leader for ad delivery. It's sad.

Sep 17, 2012 07:32 pm
 Posted by  bywaterbaby

I want to boycott everything Newhouse, but I have one question. Where do I get access to daily death notices for our area? Will The Advocate provide them in the New Orleans edition?

Sep 17, 2012 08:23 pm
 Posted by  deanslist2

As a longtime journalist myself, Errol, I have to respectfully disagree with you and I use the word "respectfully" in its truest sense. I have always respected your writing and your knowledge of the local scene and this article is no exception. Your case is very well made here. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however one chooses to view the issue), the way the T-P is going IS the way and the wave of the future. They may be the first major daily in the nation to undergo this transformation but they will, by no means,be the last. Other dailies in even larger cities will certainly follow. More and more people, myself included, are getting their world news from the Web which, incidentally, is the same place the T-P and other major dailies get it from. Most of that news is supplied by AP, Reuters and other wire services. The beauty here is, home users get these services for free while the dailies and other media have to subscribe for it. I saw these changes coming many years ago, when the year 2012 WAS far into the future and now it has arrived. October 1, 2012 to be exact. And for my money -- and I've been a T-P suscriber for most of my 31 years here -- I would rather get my news from a clean computer screen, not something I have to fold over and jump between pages. Yes, I am going to continue my T-P subscription and see how things work out but, when the day comes that I can get the whole paper online, seven days a week, I will cancel my subscription. If I have to pay to get the "paper" online and it isn't too expensive, I will. As an editor in chief of two college newspapers dating back to 1969 and an editor for several weeklies in the years since, if anyone should be against what is happening here but I'm not. I welcome it. Sooner or later, nearly everyone else will too. Except, of course, for those who still insist on typing on an old Royal or Underwood. I'm sure Gutenberg made a lot of enemies among the professional scribes but look where we are now thanks to him.

Sep 20, 2012 04:54 pm
 Posted by  TheBear

I too received the TP letter of 9/12 advising that they will cut the home distribution by 18 issues & reduce my monthly invoice by $2.00, or 11 cents per issue.
That is an insult to all of the subscribers if they believe that we will continue to pay this price.
I called the Distribution Manager & had a very nice conversation. His position is that the TP is just the first newspaper to go this route. "They all will follow." He stated that to maintain the paper as we know it, they would have had to go to $30 per month. My position was that should have been my call if I would have paid $30 per month.
We agreed to "agree to disagree".

Sep 20, 2012 09:01 pm
 Posted by  swampwiz

Make that 2 Errol. I am a nola.com only reader, so I just about could not care less about the dead tree version of the newspaper. I much prefer that nola.com/Times Picayune be an internet focused media enterprise - and I am quite content with the website (although there seems to be some quirks with the commenting at times.) With that said, if the Morning Advocate can move in on the territory and do a good job, then good for them too.

If the enterprise feels that remaining an every day dead tree version producer hampers its vision, then it is proper to let it go. Likewise, in this day of free content and drastically reduced classified ads (i.e., due to Ebay, Cragislist, etc.), something had to be done with the cost structure.

BTW, what nola.com did during Katrina was outstanding, so I can see why it feels that it can be a better internet newspaper than a dead tree newspaper.

Sep 22, 2012 11:44 am
 Posted by  Jeauxy321

Dear Errol,

I will NOT pay for the TP to deliver junk mail to my door! The three days they will deliver papers are the PRIME JUNK MAIL days! Why should I pay for them to deliver this trash? I never do anything but weed it out and discard. In thirty years, I have NEVER found anything useful in the pile glossy ads.

I want a daily newspaper that will cover LSU sports and not put slurs in the headlines of the articles about the Tigers and give Tulane top billing even when they lose miserably.

As for the Newhouse liberal bias, our governor's refusal to raise taxes resulted in $150 million dollar surplus due to higher corporate taxes. Did this hit the FRONT PAGE of TP? Are you kidding? Hidden on inside page.

I will be subscribing to Morning Advocate and never look back at Ricky's Folly in coming years. If a new owner buys out the TP and goes back to daily, that would be fine, but I think I hear for whom the bell tolls, it's the Times-Picayune, and is a death knell.

Bobby

Sep 24, 2012 07:26 am
 Posted by  Jennifer Reeser

Thank you so much. I see that now, Advance has declared full-blown journalism war, announcing their move into Baton Rouge, to compete with The Advocate. So much for the "We're losing money and must cut back operations!" rhetoric.

http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_newhouses_strike_back.php

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

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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