Next Saturday, Dec. 8, the Newhouse-generated decline in news coverage will take an historic step. There will be an election in Orleans Parish that will include runoffs for two council seats and a West Bank judgeship. The voting will no doubt have a low turnout, but it might be even lower than expected because this will be the first Saturday election without a Saturday Times-Picayune whose election day stories would remind people to go to the polls.

 

Granted this is a relatively small ballot, but since all Louisiana’s elections are on Saturdays, the same will happen for major elections including mayor, governor and legislative bodies. (Also, Tuesday federal elections including the recent presidential voting.) Daily newspapers are an element in how democracy works. The Newhouses are playing less of a role.

 

Last week a USA Today article, by reporter Roger Yu, about the impending cutback of the Newhouse-owned Cleveland paper The Plain Dealer provided some interesting insights. The article quoted Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, who referred to the Newhouse’s Advance Publications as “outliers.” According to the article:

 

… among newspaper companies, Advance has been "the outlier" in hastening the phasing out of print editions and moving to the digital-only platform, Edmonds says. "Almost no one else is doing it," he says. "The consensus view in the industry is that it may be a logical and necessary step in the future, but it's too early to do that. The reason why a lot of the organizations are not making that move is that a big part of their revenue is still print ads." (Boldface added for emphasis.)

 

Here is a key point. While print revenue has declined across the country and digital income has grown, print’s numbers are still overwhelmingly higher. As reported in the USA Today article: “In the third quarter, U.S. newspaper ad revenue fell 6.4 percent from a year ago to $4.5 billion, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Meanwhile, online ads rose 3.6 percent to $759 million.”

 

Let's do the math here. Print revenue has declined but it still brings in $4 billion more than digital. Maybe the Newhouses are a little overly dazzled by digital.

 

It is the tragedy of cities including Cleveland, New Orleans, Harrrisburg and Syracuse that their newspapers fell into the hands of a company that doesn’t care about them.

 

If only we could vote next Saturday on getting the Newhouses to sell. That would really increase the turnout.
 
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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 at gdkrewe@aol.com or 504-895-2266.

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