Sunday, May 27, 2012

T-P may become the Some-times Picayune

Chalk board in front of Henry's bar on Magazine
The city is in a profound state of shock and anticipation of loss. Our daily newspaper has announced it will soon cease publishing the printed edition seven days a week. The paper that many once mocked, but which recently garnered Pulitzer prizes is trying a partial reduction in its traditional format.

Besides the journalistic questions about the proper way to announce a major story on a day when there's no broadsheet and how to write a second-day story when it should be a first-day report - well, there's just the basic question of what to do while you drink your coffee in the morning. That's what concerns most people.

Some of us long ago stopped watching TV news. It was just too depressing, scandalous and shallow. Daily news reporters clung to old ideals of balanced and in-depth coverage of important community issues.

But as more and more subscribers read their news online and brag about halting their home deliveries, the cost of producing the reporting cannot be subsidized. Gone are the full-page department store and grocery store ads, car dealership spreads. After Katrina, everyone needed new furniture and cars, but now they have them. Ads don't convince them to buy more. The newspaper lost all that revenue to direct mail and the Internet.

Simultaneously, the newspaper's online version was redesigned. We didn't like that either! There's no character and all the "important" news is preselected. The editors quickly crafted a response - readers would not lose their crossword puzzles or comics! There would be enhanced community news and interior design stories!!

Honestly, many New Orleanians don't have Internet access or Smart Phones. So, they won't see the daily news at all on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. (We should count up how many major events occurred on those days!)

Immediately, activist organizations sprung up in an effort to save the Times-Picayune from itself. How could we protect ourselves from corrupt politicians, criminals and carpetbaggers without a daily paper? And what about the good news?

In fact, the T-P published a fabulous series exposing the injustices of the state prison system just a week prior.

A friend called it the paper's "swan song."

The New York Times broke the story, followed by the Huffington Post and a host of national news outlets.

I noted on another web site that an old favorite of mine, the alternative "Chicago Reader" was sold twice - first to "Creative Loafing" and then to the "Chicago Sun-Times." Although it still retains some of its legend reporters, it can't retain the edge that once helped it break stories on social and community issues that were always ignored by the dailies.

What is to become of us? That's what we are all asking.

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