BAYHAM: Replace, Don’t Save The Times-Picayune

How the hell does someone screw up a de facto monopoly?

That was the first thing I asked myself when I heard that the Times Picayune would shift to limited publication starting in October.

The TP has been the exclusive provider of daily newsprint in the New Orleans area for decades and while the economy in south Louisiana isn’t humming, the current state of things are better here than Detroit.

Print newspapers are going the way of the dodo due to the internet, though I figured the TP would have been one of the last to drastically reorganize itself and not serve as the forerunner.

Before I continue further I should disclose that I am not a fan of the Times Picayune’s editorial board.

Beyond my own political/personal issues from my unpleasant trips before their editorial board as a candidate, I was incensed by their refusal to endorse Joseph Cao’s bid for re-election to Congress and their previous support for Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008.

The Times Picayune backed Obama though it was clear that his policies were not going to be good for Louisiana, particularly in regards to our energy industry.

Yet Howard Avenue still clambered aboard his bandwagon and ended up looking like Oliver Twist begging for more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico during the Obama Administration’s “permitorium”..

My dislike for the local management notwithstanding, I never took word of its “restructuring” with even a hint of schadenfreude as the end of daily local publication is a setback for the community.

A lot of talented and experienced reporters will either have to hang up their pen and pad or pursue employment opportunities in new media markets.

And while I dislike the interpreters of the news on the editorial staff, I have a great respect for the career beat reporters who write the news.

The premature retirement of veteran reporters represents the loss of institutional knowledge, background that led to better-penned news stories, which somewhat compensated for the paper’s politics.

When the TP shut down its St Bernard office after Hurricane Katrina, I noticed a drop in coverage on local government news. Council meetings went from having two page articles to being clumped on to page 3 Metro section blocs opposite of the obituaries.

The end of the Times Picayune’s status as a true daily will result in the public receiving less information, which ought to be the mission of a journalistic entity.

A blog is not a newspaper. The Lagniappe insert has never crashed my computer with an insidious “pop up” ad. I can’t say the same for their newly mangled online sports site.

Not everyone has a computer or access to the internet and a web-based newspaper will ultimately restrict the dissemination of information to the poor and elderly.

A newspaper has a historical function as a hard copy archive that can be preserved unaltered on microfilm while electronic stories can disappear or be changed.

There’s more at stake than a shortage of table coverings for next season’s crawfish boil (there’s always The Gambit for that); the loss of a true daily newspaper is a significant weakening of the checks and balances between the public and big government and big business.

The Advocate, Baton Rouge’s newspaper, has stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the Times Picayune by issuing a daily New Orleans edition, complete with home delivery.

Amazingly the Times Picayune’s owners and local collaborators took great offense that some other entity would dare invade the very turf they abandoned.

Nola Media Group’s response was to make an absurd foray into Baton Rouge, which will go over about as well there as a Nick Saban monument.

How the “Sometimes Picayune” possesses the resources to compete in Baton Rouge while leaving gaps in their own backyard is illogical and obnoxious to their tens of thousands of longtime New Orleans area customers and hundreds of dedicated of ex-employees.

Contrary to the message plastered on the black and white yard signs that sprouted around New Orleans after the announcement of the conversion to limited publication, the Times Picayune doesn’t deserve to be saved after they betrayed both the community they profited from and dismissed loyal staffers who produced the paper.

They deserve to fail.

I wish The Advocate success in their New Orleans market endeavor and that they are able to develop some local flavor for their Nola edition and not come off like a foreign correspondent covering parochial news.

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