A feature in the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review has locals atwitter about its detailed examination of The Times-Picayune’s diminishment.


Headlined “The Battle of New Orleans: Is Advance Publications securing the future of local news—or needlessly sacrificing it?”, the article is the most comprehensive analysis of the situation to date. Most of the previous national coverage has tended to follow a three-part formula:


  1. Tell about the local outrage.
  2. Try to seem balanced by conceding that the eventual downfall of daily newspapers might be inevitable.
  3. Punt.


Or, in the case of the long awaited “60 Minutes" story, all of the above plus rehashing old news.


Reporter Ryan Chittum, however, breaks new ground in many ways including some intriguing business analysis explaining how the Newhouses' strategy may bring short-term gains but will be a long-term disaster. There is also insight about the  process of information dissemination within the new digital newsroom. Most revealing is a discussion about how other publishers are NOT following the Newhouse plan, nor are analysts buying into it. Consider this paragraph referring to an article in the newsletter of a journalism school, The Poynter Institute:


Media analysts have responded mostly with puzzlement. While everyone agrees on the general problem, the Newhouse family is suddenly almost alone among newspaper chains in continuing to insist on the free model for news and an intentional acceleration of print’s demise. “The business case is not all that strong,” mused Poynter’s Rick Edmonds over the summer. Ken Doctor, the news industry analyst and consultant, wrote that “It’s near impossible to see how this is a growth strategy for the T-P’s (and the city’s) future.”


Ironically most people will be reading the CJR article online rather than in the print version, but that just underscores that the world is different for national magazines – which are more targeted to specific niches – and daily newspapers – which were designed to play a hometown news and information role, and which are expected to be on porches every morning. Significantly, on matters of revenue, between print and digital, the former is still by far the leader.


Take a moment, turn off the electronic device, stir the coffee, put out the cat, read the CJR article carefully (you can find it here) and then scroll through the comments that follow. The greatest tribute to The Times-Picayune that once was is the anger over what its owners have forced it to become.




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 atgdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.