This will be an historic month in local journalism. The Newhouse family, which has operated The Times-Picayune for 57 years, will shut down its local presence and the esteemed daily will become part of the Advocate family owned by John and Dathel Georges. We are going to have to become used to a newspaper named The Times-Picayune/ The New Orleans Advocate. Thinking back to that day in 2012 when the Newhouses announced that they were reducing circulation of the T-P to three home delivered editions a week, who could have imagined that The Baton Rouge Advocate, then owned by the Manship family, would become such a factor.
What happened in New Orleans was not the way the script was supposed to go. The city was destined to become the largest town in the country without a daily newspaper. Dailies, we were reminded, are not a part of the future. Now we know, at least one will survive in New Orleans for at least as long as the Georges are willing and, we hope, as readers rediscover the value of the printed word.
We do regret that in the process some excellent reporters have lost jobs. Good newspaper journalists are an important element to the functioning of a city; searching for facts, revealing the hidden truth, pouring through often tedious details; alerting us to the happenings within court houses, keeping us informed. Daily newspapers are the vanguard of a free press and a free press is a necessity for democracy to work properly. Many of the current Advocate staffers were former T-P employees. Unfortunately, there will not be enough jobs for all. We wish those the good fortune they deserve.
Perhaps because of its fascination with words, no industry involves the hyphen as does newspapers. The very name, The Times-Picayune speaks of an historic merger of two early newspapers, the Times and the Picayune. (The former once having been hyphenated as The Times-Democrat.) The States-Item, itself the product of a merger among afternoon dailies, became part of the T-P ownership. For a while the newspaper was known as The Times-Picayune/ The States-Item. Gradually, the latter names were dropped, and the double hyphenated newspaper became simply The Times-Picayune. We predict the same fate for the new local daily. After a while the Advocate name will be dropped and The Times-Picayune will emerge again as the city’s daily. Meanwhile The Advocate will survive in its home base of Baton Rouge. The Georges will become the state’s all-time media mogul. We wish them success.
This has been a long twisted tale. To understand complex situations is another reason why we will always need newspapers.