Later this year, vaguely reported as “the Fall,” the daily paper in New Orleans, which has a storied 175-year-old history, will cease to exist in its present shape. Since TVD was created to celebrate the vinyl record, another supposedly archaic form of media, I decided to weigh in.
First—a little background. I have been reading the print edition of the Times-Picayune for over 30 years. I had it delivered to my dorm in college. More significantly, I have been reading a daily newspaper for as long as I can remember. I believe that reading the paper on a daily basis helped create my love of reading and led me to becoming a journalist and author. I’m rarely the smartest guy in the room, but I’m always among the best read.
I am clearly not the only one who feels this way based on the outpouring of support for the printed, seven-days-a-week paper manifested in New Orleans since the announcement was made. Yesterday, over 300 people showed up at a rally and petitions have been circulating. Civic and political leaders have formed an organization. The goal is to get the out-of-town family that owns the T/P, and dozens of other papers across the county, to either sell our paper to one of us or change the plan.
They are not going to sell our paper. But I think there is a chance they could change the plan. Here’s why. New Orleans is not like any of the other cities where the Newhouse family owns papers; Ann Arbor, Michigan has been sited as the role model for this downsizing (and let’s be clear—despite saying that the plan is to move resources onto the web—downsizing is what is being planned). As we know, New Orleans is not Ann Arbor, or Birmingham, or Mobile, Alabama. It’s not Newark, NJ, where they own the Star-Ledger. But we have been chosen as the guinea pig to test the theory that print media is becoming archaic.
What is needed is a critical mass supporting the paper and rejecting the changes. No one is calling for a boycott yet, of either the paper or its advertisers, but I believe that it could come to that.
I went to the rally Yesterday expecting thousands of people. At just after four, there were just handfuls milling about. I didn’t stick around to see the numbers rise. But from the reports I have read today, which emphasized the “only in New Orleans” attributes of the event (read that as people were in costume, there was live music and beer), there wasn’t enough anger.
In order to reach the critical mass necessary to change the minds of the out-of-towners that are calling the shots another event is needed. It should be on a Sunday, clearly Monday afternoon is the worst possible time to expect people to turn out, it should be a march, there should be no live music, and especially no beer. This is serious business; as serious as any facing our community besides the entrenched problems that are on the front pages of our paper. Think the anti-crime rally that was depicted in last season’s HBO series Tremé. Think the Million Man March. Think history—labor unions, civil rights, anti-war rallies. If you must—think Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party.
If there was ever a need for a grass roots effort to retain an icon of the city, this is it. Seniors need to come out. Every subsection of our community needs to be represented in force. Young people, the coveted 18-35 demographic loved by television advertisers, need to show up if only to support a model that the powers-that-be think is archaic.
A few years back representatives of these same forces said the vinyl record was dead. The turntable was as archaic as our newspaper is going to be. But now, a few short years later, young people are buying turntables. Young bands are putting out vinyl records. The vinyl record isn’t dead and neither is our newspaper. Stand up and be counted.