We know of at least two of that paper’s best writers – sports columnist Ron Higgins and outdoors reporter Todd Masson – who are out so far this week amid what looks like yet another round of Times-Picayune layoffs. From Masson’s Facebook…
And this, from Higgins’ Twitter…
Thanks, Ted. First time I've been fired for making too much money and being old. https://t.co/UvcRAJjlmN
— Ron Higgins (@RonHigg) August 15, 2018
And while he’s not being fired, T-P sportswriter Larry Holder is also leaving…
Today is my last day at https://t.co/TldOcB7czN | The Times-Picayune. I honestly can't believe I'm writing this since it's the only place I've ever wanted to work. I’ve cherished my six years working with such dedicated journalists. What’s next for me? Stay tuned …
— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) August 16, 2018
As Masson said, the business model for a newspaper is evaporating. It’s a 20th century model and technology is changing the way people get their news. It’s more about generating a feed full of headlines and blurbs folks can go through very quickly rather than presenting long-form material people will spend an hour poring through every day – when somebody is interested in a topic among current events, they can always do a Google search and take a rather deep dive into that topic to get up to speed.
Do you get a particularly well-informed public when that’s the business model? Probably not.
But there are many, many more competitors in the media marketplace now than there used to be, and it’s clear the Times-Picayune isn’t succeeding in holding them off. While its coverage of, say, college sports – which has been Higgins’ beat for decades – has been a strength, you can’t be as current on what’s going on with respect to LSU athletics by reading the Times-Picayune as you can by having a subscription to Geaux247, or even just looking at the TigerDroppings LSU message boards every day, where although you’ll find a great deal of clutter while idiots argue with each other you will see something of a crowdsourced and curated newsfeed involving items relevant to your interest.
Competing with that using a model built before the internet even existed simply doesn’t work. The only way to do it is to have absolutely excellent content across the board, and the Picayune’s management hasn’t been committed to that for a long time. So now they’re about driving the lowest costs possible, and dumping their best writers – who, if they want to stay in the profession, will often turn to the blogosphere or more web-oriented publications to ply their trade and will therefore become competitors for traffic.
We’re not sure there’s any way to stop this retreat. We think it compounds on itself, and there will be more days like today in which the Picayune and other papers continue shedding their best writers – until at some point what’s left isn’t worth reading at all.