Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Orleans May Soon Become First Major City Without A Daily Newspaper

We know the newspaper business was in a technology driven downward spiral even before the crash of 2008. This day was perhaps inevitable, but that doesn't make it any less shocking. Here is the Atlantic Wire with the details:
The New Orleans Times-Picayune is facing massive budget cuts, including "wholesale layoffs" and a reduction in the publishing schedule that would leave the city without a daily print newspaper. The report from David Carr of The New York Times says that the paper's owner, Newhouse Newspapers, will likely cut the publishing days to two or three a week and replace or let go many of its top editors. According to the website Best of New Orleans, reporters who do stay will face "sharp salary cuts" and be expected to post most of their content online at the paper's website,

Current staff members say they learned of the news through The New York Times report or via Twitter. The cuts are being compared to Newhouse's treament of the Ann Arbor News, which was shuttered several years ago (after 174 years of publication) and is now only available online. The company famously claimed a "no layoffs" policy for years, but rescinded that rule in 2010.

The loss of the Times-Picayune is particularly painful for New Orleans, which has relied heavily on the paper for its investigative reporting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The paper won the Pulutzer Prize in 2006 for public service reporting, even after power failures from the storm prevented the printing presses from running for three days. Like many of the city's institutions, the paper never fully recovered, but continued to provide valuable coverage of stories city corruption and frustrating rebuilding efforts, such as the story of Danziger Bridge shootings and a recent series on state prisons. The Times-Picayune first began publishing in 1837.

The news comes a day after Oregon University's student paper the Daily Emerald announced that it will end its "92-year streak as a Monday-to-Friday newspaper," but under very different circumstances. The paper will be shifting most of its resources online, cutting back to two print editions a week, along with occasional special editions. The paper insists this "is not a move made out of financial desperation," but one made with the future of the industry in mind and as a preemptive effort to focus on the growing digital audience. Perhaps the Times-Picayune will be able to adapt and thrive in an online-only world, but given Newhouse's recent history with the Ann Arbor paper, the initial response is not optimistic.
People who have become addicted to getting all of their information online will shrug and say, "What's the big deal?" The big deal is twofold. First, not everyone can afford Internet access, and this is just another way that the poor will now be isolated from the mainstream of society. Secondly, since no one has figured out a way to build a truly robust online news outlet that doesn't glean most of its information from more traditional media sources, this action sounds the death knell for whatever remains of true journalism at a time when the propaganda influence of the national media Hologram is becoming omnipotent.

I've been highly critical on this blog of the way newspapers have followed the lead of television news and have become much more superficial in their news coverage in recent years, but I do recognize this action portends a very dark future in which getting real information about what is really going on in many communities will be well nigh impossible.


  1. It's perhaps a bit ironic that Picayune means "paltry" and "of little worth".

    Kind of like most of the news we get.'s sad. Mostly because we humans are creatures of habit and the daily news is so much better than the olds. ;)


  2. Also, it will be interesting to see if we become (as we should) much more local in our living, and if news travels the way it did before the daily papers. Probably most of what happened in a city was only relevant to those it affected. Most, not all. And therein lies the rub, I suppose.


    And thanks for your work, Bill. Always appreciated.

    1. But I think that was in the old days. I'm nostalgic for them too - there is too much information about horrible things happening far away.

      But here's the thing. We are now global. When we purchase products made by slave labor on the other side of the world, we're partly responsible. And pollution travels all around the world. Mercury from Ohio ends up in Norway. Particulate matter from China ends up in California. Plastic from anywhere goes all over the oceans.

      There really has to be world-wide cooperation, or we'll all just perish together (the most likely outcome!).

  3. Sadly, too few people who should know better even follow current events anymore. I encounter this all of the time with people at work, some of whom have college degrees.

    They are too busy working, fixing their ever-ailing cars, going to the mall, and playing with their iPhones to care or learn about anything beyond themselves.

    Hopefully the churches and community organizations of New Orleans can take up the slack in some ways. And that applies to all cities everywhere.

  4. While I second all of the above, I believe the issue is about the experience of "seeing something in the paper."
    That is, newspaper journalism is a push medium. Information is available and disseminated without the intention of "looking up" something.

    In my experience, online reading tends to naturally veer in the direction of my conscious interests.

  5. As a reporter, I see this as a BAD sign, for a lot of reasons, and philos4's point is one of them. Despite the fact major corporate media is sickeningly corrupt, the print media is still far more focused on in-depth coverage of issues than anything TV comes close to. What affects the major cities usually eventually hits those outside cities (or vice versa). Worse, though, is the negative impact on educated public debate. Most of us reporters really DO care about educating the public and shining a light on corruption and other issues (we often can't do it to the degree we'd like b/c there aren't enough of us; we are only humans, after all).
    I don't see "churches and community organizations" taking up much of the slack that will develop -- particularly churches. Their history demonstrates exactly the opposite of a broadly informed populace, in most cases; their followers were taught to read just enough to read whatever sacred text they had, but not to understand it or any wider issues. Any additional education was always limited to a select few.

  6. There was a tradition in the 19th century, particularly among the Congregationalists and Methodists in which true, broad, liberal education was a priority. Indeed, many fine colleges were started by them; colleges which continue on today.