Sep 24, 201209:13 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Times-Picayune Fiasco: Revenge of the Newhouses; Arrival of The Advocate
Having undermined their own daily newspaper in New Orleans, the Newhouses moved last week to weaken Baton Rouge’s daily, The Advocate, in its hometown.
Previously the Newhouses had announced that they would increase their web presence in Baton Rouge; last Thursday they said they were also staffing a bureau in the capital city where a Baton Rouge edition of the T-P would be published. That immediately prompted folks in New Orleans, where The Times-Picayune was born and nurtured long before the Newhouses got their hands on it, to wonder, “If they can’t afford more than three editions a week in New Orleans how can they expand into Baton Rouge?” Cheron Brylski’s Krewe of Truth website was one of the first to raise the question with a newsletter headlined:
THE HYPOCRISY OF THE NEW TIMES-PICAYUNE LEADERSHIP
Brylski began by asking about the T-P's new "publisher": Wasn't Rick Mathews just quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that the paper was in fact in dire straits (contradicting the earlier story that the changes were coming from a position of strength)? So the paper that found it financially unsustainable to publish a paper seven days a week now finds it financially feasible to publish a Baton Rouge edition of the paper and open an office there.
Here’s another one of Mathews's statements to ponder, this one appeared in his own NOLA.COM’s article announcing the move:
"Baton Rouge is a significant market for us,'' Mathews said. "Even as we redouble our commitment to be the most comprehensive, in-depth, real-time news operation in the greater New Orleans area, we are reaching out to improve our offerings in Baton Rouge and beyond.
Hey Ricky: “redouble!”
Before you can “redouble” you have to “double” at least once and you have done just the opposite. You can’t get to redoubling by cutting back.
As for the contention that there is a post-Katrina displaced New Orleans population living in Baton Rouge, that’s true, but they could have been served by continuing the daily Times-Picayune and upping distribution in Baton Rouge.
Hey Newhouses, you are missing the point: People in Baton Rouge like the Manships. The Advocate’s publishers have kept their civic duty of maintaining a daily newspaper while still developing a web operation. New Orleans is the battleground, and here people are furious for the disgrace you have caused the city. You started this. To try to respond by undermining the competition is a further disgrace.
Meanwhile,The Advocate will increase its presence in New Orleans this week beginning with a press conference Monday, free giveaway editions throughout the week, and a daily, home-delivered New Orleans edition starting next Monday, the same day that the T-P falls to thrice weekly.
Last week Advocate management met with groups around the city. One page of a handout was headlined:
OUR APPROCH TO NEW MEDIA
There were two statements:
•A digital presence is vital to the future.
•The need for a printed paper still exists.
Finally, this will be a sad week for print journalism in New Orleans. You might want to save your Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday editions of the T-P for they will be the last editions on those days ever. As of next week The Advocate is New Orleans’ new daily.
For many T-P employees the week will be extra sad because their jobs will end Sept. 30. (Where’s the redoubling Ricky?). There is a lot of talent that will be lost. We wish them the best. What happened was not a failure on their part or of The Times-Picayune, but of the newspaper’s distant ownership. The staff and the newspaper deserved better. So too does the city’s rich journalistic heritage.
To subscribe to The Advocate, call 504-529-0522, or visit theadvocate.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (504-895-2266).
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12