The transition to web-based news continues to divorce journalists from their paychecks. The Times-Picayune is just the latest example. By Walter Pierce
“Saddle up the dinosaurs, we’re riding to Chernobyl!”
The depressing chime of the death knell for daily newspapers — with an emphasis on paper — took on a shriller, more fretful tone last week when the venerable Times-Picayune, the Pulitzer-winning daily that has been the dominant source of news in the Crescent City for more than a century, announced it will cut its circulation down to three days this fall and focus its energy and resources on digital news.
By year’s end a paper version of the Times-Pic will be available only on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No more Monday recaps of Saints games in print. And let’s imagine the frantic raids on recycling bins next crawfish season in the metro area. Can you even have a crawfish boil and not cover the table with newspaper?
It also means that tens of thousands of New Orleanians who were habituated to life’s daily pulse in the 20th century — folks over 50, let’s say — will have to make a wrenching transition to this new(s) reality. And unfortunately the T-P’s brave new world will not be realized without layoffs, likely significant layoffs.
Like the Titanic’s band, the paper’s editors played as lively a tune as possible when they announced the changes last Thursday, citing the company’s incoming president: “[T]he need to reallocate resources to accelerate the digital growth of NOLA Media Group will result in a reduction in the size of the workforce.”
Gannett, parent company of The Daily Advertiser, is no stranger to reallocating resources. Just ask the hundreds nationally and dozens locally laid off over the last few years as the media behemoth adjusts to the digital age. Gannett, too, is repositioning itself to focus on digital delivery. Fortunately our local daily will remain daily, at least for now.
Citing sources, New Orleans weekly Gambit reported that the T-P newsroom staff will likely be reduced by a third, and those employees learned of their march to the guillotine from a New York Times article that broke online at 11:30 p.m. last Wednesday. The Times-Pic brass announced the changes hours later after its hand was forced, and Gambit further reported that only a select number of management personnel were privy to the downsizing before it was announced.
The knell signaling the end of daily newspapers as we know them has been ringing for at least a decade, and newspapers themselves share the blame for their precipitously declining health. When the World Wide Web became a necessary application of news gathering, most papers made their locally generated content free on their newfangled websites. How could they not? In cities with two competing dailies — what a relic of the 20th century! — if you didn’t make your content free and your competitor did, you were at a significant disadvantage.
The Pandora’s Box had already been pried open in 1999 when America Online convinced the Associated Press to sell its stories to AOL, which provided AP news from around the world to AOL subscribers. For free. The AP is essentially a resource-sharing operation of which virtually all daily newspapers are members. The Daily Advertiser is an AP paper, as are The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, so their stories are fed into the AP machine daily just like everyone else’s. By 2000, subscribers to AOL, CompuServe and other Internet providers could get AP content including, often, stories from their own daily newspapers for free. Once the dailies started rolling out their own websites a couple of years later, anyone with a computer and modem could get daily journalism — an expensive, time-consuming and critical-to-democracy enterprise — pumped into their homes free of charge. What was the news consumer’s incentive to buy a print copy after that? Circulation of print dailies began to plummet, and the incentive for advertisers to invest in print declined with it.
Of course, Katrina delivered a swoon-inducing blow to the T-P, flushing thousands of subscribers from the city. But the die had already been cast. Newspapers were on a collision course with a future that doesn’t give a damn about nostalgia, especially the quaint news-reading habits of a bygone era.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Two bedroom town home or three bedroom contemporary home
Let the party begin
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
Rachel Hector returns home to cultivate a generation of yoga instructors.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
It is distinctly possible control of the U.S. Senate will hinge on Louisiana, which is why, during the last several months, outside groups have made this the most expensive election in Louisiana history.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
A constellation of South Louisiana musical stars descends on Parc Sans Souci to honor an ailing David Egan.
INDStyle Awards 2014 was one for the books; the American Cancer Society took over The Victorian's big tent; and the battle of the sexes was alive and well for Walk a Runway's Christmas fundraiser.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra teams up with choreographer Clare Cook for a modern take on a Stravinsky classic.
Local food pantries begin seasonal drives
A girl's best fashion friend
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Creative living flourishes at Downtown’s artist hub
Four bedroom cottage or four bedroom traditional
Bold looks for fall define INDStyle Awards 2014
Statement pieces for the season
The gents venture out
Project Front Yard has been launched to help us change our image and our habits.
Alleged victim is a Navy vet with brain trauma resulting from a car accident three decades ago.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Richard Buswell was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in prison for his role in an investment scheme that defrauded his clients of more than $6 million.
The Latin Music Festival returns to Parc International this Saturday, Oct. 4, from noon to 10 p.m.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.