Welcome to "Chez Newhouse," where the featured dish for years has been a steak with sides of a baked potato and a salad, plus a slice of apple pie.
Then one day we learned that only the steak was available, though at the same price, and if we wanted the potato and the salad we could pay extra and have to get them at another counter.
Thus, it must have seen baffling this weekend when the Chez Newhouse menu boasted of “bonus” items to accompany your steak, such as a baked potato and a salad. An inquiring mind might ask where the bonus is in something that we once had that was taken away. One could imagine T-P columnists of yore seething at a government agency, or a restaurant, trying such a word stunt. Oh, and the bonus lasts only through the end of football season, when we supposedly get less interested in the news though there's no guarantee that the news itself will be less interesting.
What was once a grand newspaper, which was then reduced to an embarrassing three days a week, got a little more dignity this weekend when home delivery was, in effect, increased to five days a week to include Monday and Saturday editions (mostly built around the football season to accommodate prep-coverage on Saturdays and Saints commentary on Mondays). (Though the Saints might have ruined the mood for the coming out party by losing in the most painful way possible: to Atlanta; in over- time.)
Tuesday and Thursday editions are still not delivered (except on ad-rich Thanksgiving) but are available on newsstands. Gone is the tabloid sized T-P Street in place of a standard sized T-P.
So now we have a publishing creation perhaps never seen in the industry, call it the “Five-Sevenths of a Home-Delivered Daily, but Only in the Fall, Times-Picayune.”
When the Newhouses first announced their plans for the T-P three years ago I was outraged, because it was an insult to the city.
There have been developments since then, the most important being that the city has a new daily, The New Orleans Advocate and it's a good paper. As for the T-P, I never denied the quality of its coverage. The paper still does good work. So, maybe we're better off where we are now with a working daily, and another with less frequency but with daily experience. They will battle for the hearts of readers and advertisers; though had the Newhouses done nothing they would have never had to battle at all.
These are confusing times in the industry. Still unanswered: Whatever happened to the slice of pie?
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.