New Orleans has survived the Civil War, yellow fever, the Depression and a string of spectacular political shenanigans. But its award-winning newspaper – The Times-Picayune – won’t be around to tell readers each day how the city is rebounding from Hurricane Katrina.
Anne Milling traces her New Orleans ancestors back centuries on her mother’s side. For nearly five decades, the 175-year-old newspaper has landed on her city doorstep every day of the week.
“I’m passionate about the Times-Picayune and I’m passionate about New Orleans. And I think that they go hand in glove.”
Newhouse Newspapers, which owns the Times-Picayune, is cutting staff and planning to publish only three editions a week. That leaves New Orleans the biggest U.S. city without a daily paper. Daily news coverage will be available only online at Nola.com.
Milling says she can’t stand thought of no longer having the paper with her morning coffee with chicory. And she has a plan. She purchased a Web address called Savethepicayune.com. Milling is a prominent philanthropist and is brainstorming with her influential circle of friends to find a solution. Times-Picayune journalists won Pulitzer Prizes, risking their lives covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And now Milling says they shouldn’t be denied reporting the city’s recovery with traditional ink and paper.
““This to me was the biggest black eye one could have at this particular time in our history. I think it’s so important to have a daily newspaper where you are kept apprised of what’s going on politically, civically, nationally, internationally.”
29-year-old Erin Krall photographs and collects newspaper front pages. She’s done it for years, along with her father, a history teacher, whose collection dates back to the 1960s.
“Now we’ll be printing off screen shots from Nola.com instead of having that front page for our daily life and the record of our life here.”
Krall is an exception to others of her generation, according to Tulane University journalism professor Paul Greenberg. He says most people around her age embraced online news years ago. What he finds interesting now is the timing of the cutbacks. The Times-Picayune is number one in 50 large markets for its rate of readership.
“I think it’s bold what they’re doing. And my opinion won’t be popular because a lot of people in New Orleans are really mad about this. But I gotta say, from a business standpoint, I think it’s smart.”
Actor Jeff Pope was relaxing at a coffee shop, with his smartphone on the table – not a newspaper.
“I get up in the morning and I drink coffee and look at the internet. I look at Nola.com. It’s easier than paper. I like having a tangible paper, but it’s kind of irrelevant now.”
National writer Micheline Maynard has seen the digital switch pulled on her hometown paper, the Ann Arbor News. The same Newhouse company that’s cutting back at the Times-Picayune applied the same formula three years ago at its Ann Arbor paper. It now has only two editions delivered weekly – and the paper’s banner itself is called AnnArbor.com.
“New Orleans can expect a big hole in its heart,” says Maynard.
Copies of the Times-Picayune are set to be printed on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only starting this fall.