For all of its existence The Times-Picayune’s building was easy to see but hard to get to. Located along I-10 as it zips to and from downtown over the path of the former New Basin Canal, the modern-style T-P building was a symbol of a bustling city reaching for the future. To me the building always had a certain swagger. It was a symbol of power, especially at the sight of delivery trucks preparing to spread the word throughout the land. Getting to the building took knowledge of a labyrinth of industrial streets as though they were a moat protecting the castle.

When the announcement was made last week that the newspaper’s press operations were going to be moved to Mobile, Alabama, the news hit in different ways. On the one hand businesses have a right to downsize and economize. Also, for local publications to be printed out of town isn’t unusual, including this site’s magazines, all of which are printed elsewhere. On the other hand we’re talking about The Times-Picayune, not just another business but for a long time a voice, leader and stabilizing force of the city. For it to move its printing operations to Mobile (besides being a slap at community pride) would be like the Saints moving their administrative operations to Little Rock, Arkansas. Promises of cost efficiency do little for hometown spirit.

In the story about the change the point was made that the company still has the largest news operation in the state. It no doubt does, and there’s no reason to believe that the move will mean a diminishment in journalistic quality. We are also told that the more modern facility in Mobile will allow for enhanced color. T-P offices in Metairie and on the Northshore will be upgraded, with the editorial design function moving to Jefferson parish. Left unsaid is how the move will effect sports scores (such as Friday night Prep) and evening news. Anyone who has made the trek from Mobile knows that it can make for long, tedious rides sometimes slowed by fog. Unable to report the news from the night before, the T-P will likely be more feature oriented.

Truth is a newspaper needs to be printed in or near the city it serves. Being 144 miles away just won’t do, not for a daily or thrice weekly. Now the timeliness advantage shifts to the Advocate, which is printed in Baton Rouge, a comparatively close 80 miles up the road.

Of course web news doesn’t need to be delivered by truck, and that’s what the Newhouses are counting on as the newspaper gradually gets diminished.

According the T-P’s coverage the building, once operations are gone toward the end of next year, might be donated to a non-profit. Perhaps the reported 100 employees who will lose their jobs can form their own personal charity. Meanwhile, in the near future those who want an early peek at an edition of the T-P might plan to meet the delivery vehicle at the Slidell truck stop.




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 websites.