Monday, June 4, 2012

New Orleans Begins to Lose Their Grasp on an Endeared Tradition



One of the nations oldest and most successful newspapers is no longer printing editions seven days a week.  The New Orleans newspaper The Times - Picayune will only be offering three printed issues a week beginning this coming fall. This change will make New Orleans the largest metro area without a daily printed newspaper in the nation during the digital age.

The Washington Post article says that The Times - Picayune change is print newspapers is not alone. Three large Alabama daily newspapers; The Birmingham News, the Press - Register in Mobile and The Huntsville Times, all owned by the Newhouse family group's Advance Publications with also be switching to publishing only three days a week and will be putting greater emphasis into their online newspapers. All four newspapers plan to leave their online access as free and will be publishing continuously on their websites.

Theses four newspapers, like other newspapers in recent years have struggled due to the fact that consumers more and more often receive their news from online sources. Print advertising has also declined once the economy entered into a recession and newspapers are still experimenting with how to make as much profit from online advertising.

The Advance Publications' president of local digital strategy, Randy Siegel explained in an interview with The Associated Press what the change means for them " For us, this isn't about print versus digital, this is about creating a very successful multi-platform media company that addresses the ever-changing needs of our readers, our online users and our advertisers. This change is not easy, but it's essential for us to remain relevant."(Associated Press) Jennifer Greer, chair of the journalism department at the University of Alabama explains that these changes are reflections of "people trying to figure out a business model that works in a digital age."(Associated Press)

hurricane katrina time picayune coverSome residents in New Orleans were emotional when they heard of The Times- Picayune decision to only print editions three times a week. The printed newspaper carries a certain nostalgia residents are not fond about loosing. In 2005 The Times - Picayune won a Pulitzer Prize for it's coverage of Hurricane Katrina. The dedication of the staff to deliver the news was phenomenal "Staffers continued reporting despite being forced out of the newspaper's offices amid widespread flooding and power outages."(Associated Press) Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of residents out of the area, some never returned, resulting in great struggle for the city and the newspaper for years since. For some residents the paper served as a lifeline, keeping residents current on the towns happenings, politics, births and deaths and other important announcements. Cheron Brylski, a New Orleans based political consultant says that "Not having the paper every day is like losing a sports team."(Associated Press) She continues to explain that having the newspaper to report about where New Orleans is headed since Hurricane Katrina is a vital in helping the residents recovery.

The other newspapers in Alabama also share a long and successful history. The Mobile paper has been publishing daily for close to two centuries, estimated since 1813 and the Birmingham News' series on corruption in Alabama's two year college system won a Pulitzer Prize.

In the article the Associated Press compares these newspapers changes in printing to the Advance Publications made in Michigan. Ann Arbor news was shut down in 2009 and switched to AnnArbor.com, which is an online news website that continues to publish their print newspapers on Thursday and Sunday. Ken Doctor a newspaper analysis that writes for the Newsonomics blog says "...the company is trying to hold on to declining print ad revenue for a few more years, and expects Advance to eventually cut print runs at its other newspapers in New Jersey, Oregon, Ohio and elsewhere."(Associated Press)

It is not a secret that print circulation continues to drop throughout the years. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations " On average, the four newspapers' circulation in the half year through March fell about 6 percent from a year ago."(Associated Press) Although, The Times-Picayune's print circulation may be dropping the newspaper continues to be one of the nation's most successful newspapers. Research was conducted by Texas-based Scarborough Research, a company that tracks the industry and they found that The Times- Picayune has the highest rate of readership of its daily edition of the top 50 large-sized markets in the country.

The Times-Picayune nostalgists, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu plan to make sure the newspaper remains an intergal part of New Orleans culture. Landrieu stated "Through wars and floods, the 'Aints and a Saints Super Bowl victory, the TP has been and remains an integral part of our daily routine and our culture."(Associated Press) Some members of The Times-Picayune advisory board such as longtime member, Anne Milling do not believe an online focused news source would be successful in New Orleans. Millings claims that she is not alone in this and that others had considered "...bringing in new owners committed to a daily paper, or even starting a new daily publication."(Associated Press) Millings explains that New Orleans is different than other parts of the country that would be more accepting to a primarily online news source. She stated "We always do things differently, it's part of our tradition: You wake up with a cup of chicory coffee and read the newspaper."(Associated Press) We will see by the results of this epic change if New Orleans can let go of an endeared tradition or if they will fight to keep the tradition alive.

photo credit #1 
photo credit #2

2 comments:

  1. Do you think that many other metro newspapers will start to follow suit? I personally only see a few major metro area still continuing to print newspapers daily. I think the NY times, LA times, Washington post,Chicago Tribune, and that is probably about it. I think the heavily populated cities can survive for a little longer, but I do expect for newspapers to do cutbacks.

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