New Orleans’ Media Makeovers

We Welcome the City’s New Daily
We never thought we would be writing these words, but here goes: “We welcome this month New Orleans’ new daily newspaper, The Advocate.”
There is both joy and sadness to the announcement. We very much appreciate the eagerness that the Manship family of Baton Rouge has shown in bringing this city a daily newspaper. The Advocate has enjoyed a solid reputation; we think that its new New Orleans bureau, which includes many former Times-Picayune staffers, will make it an even stronger publication. With the civic loyalty that local ownership can provide, we hope The Advocate has a great future both in print, and on the web.

We mourn the loss of The Times-Picayune as a daily newspaper. Its leadership role has been compromised by the Newhouse clan’s unfortunate decision to cut its weekly editions to three. Where the T-P once held a monopoly, now it’s just another player on the crowded Internet. We still hope that the Newhouses one day answer the requests of locals and sell the newspaper to owners with more of a passion for this city. Sell, Newhouses, sell. And if the sale is announced on a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, it can even get coverage in The Times-Picayune.

Radio Changes ––Coming and Going
In a month in which we’ve seen the tragic downsizing of The Times-Picayune, there are two other developments in another medium, radio, worth noting – one good; one bad.

First the bad: The 690-AM frequency, which has long been a part of local life, will in effect be hushed. In its early years, 690 was the home of WTIX, one of the city’s two major rock stations in the days when rock ‘n’ roll gave rhythm and a beat to the emerging baby boomer generation. (The WTIX call letters still exist on FM at 94.3.) In more recent years, 690 was known as WIST, a station that carried a mixture of sports and political talk. One of its shows, “The Sports Hangover” was, by far, the most entertaining sports talk show in local radio.

Last month it was announced that the station was sold to Catholic Community Radio headquartered in Baton Rouge. (The change will take place later this year.) While religious radio certainly has the right to exist, the problem is that its audience is extremely narrow in what’s already a narrowcast business. Religious radio has its audience but isn’t part of the community discussion, or a part of community life, like WIST was. In effect religious radio stations fade into obscurity.

An example of such a downslide is the 1060-AM frequency. Back in the days when WTIX-690 was a rock ‘n’ roll giant, its main competitor was WNOE 1060-AM. Both stations had respectable signals that sent the latest hits through the airwaves. Ten-Sixty still exists, but you won’t hear many people talking about it because it, too, now known as WLNO, carries religious programming – some of it just picked up from other religious stations.

Religion is at its best when it feeds the poor. It is less useful when it sells time on radio stations. The community debate suffers with the demise of 690.

Now for the good news: Two months ago, WWNO (89.9 FM), the local National Public Radio affiliate, changed its daytime format to all-talk and news. (Classical music and jazz are heard on WWNO’S auxiliary digital stations throughout the day, and on WWNO at night.) In a town where radio talk suffers, the WWNO format change proves that radio can be a smart medium.

Quality alone never assures success, nor does mediocrity always guarantee failure. We mourn the loss of quality with the sale of WIST and congratulate WWNO on its vision.

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