I spoke to a media class at Olympic College two weeks ago and shared my opinion that paying for online news would be our industry’s main conversation through 2012. Big papers like the New York Times, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune and others have announced or implemented paywalls, and companies with community and regional papers, like Gannett, have indicated they will do the same. And the pudits on journo blogs couldn’t stop commenting.
Then the future plan for the New Orleans Times-Picayune leaked, and all everyone in the industry has talked about is whether others will follow suit and abandon the model of publishing a printed paper every day. The T-P was followed by a few other Southern metros in its chain, and we have a new “issue of the year” in the news media.
I have no announcement as far as our paper and website goes on either of these topics. In general, my opinion is mixed on paywalls (though two papers in our company, E.W. Scripps, have them now in one form or another) but firm that cutting publication days away from a daily newspaper right now hurts a community and an organization’s reputation.
I could go on about my belief in a daily printed newspaper (particularly in New Orleans, where I visited for the first time three months ago), and formulating some of those thoughts was what kept me from posting on the Times-Picayune earlier*. But now I simply want to share this pictorial from a nonprofit online news startup in the Crescent City (which will be an interesting study itself when T-P does make this change, incidentally). It’s a more elegant answer to the question “Why print a newspaper?” than me going on and on about ink smudges on my fingertips.
*Ok, I will share one observation. When I was in New Orleans last March, I picked up a Times-Picayune every day. We’ve been very conscious over the past three years to be more locally oriented than ever, as that is the one niche we can fulfill for our readers in a world full of media choices. It’s local news only on A1, a trimmed-down Nation and World report, all that. I was tickled to see that the T-P, even in a metropolitan area, essentially shared our strategy. Its front page was all city stuff, and even fit the territorial stereotype I had of that area: the Saints led A1 every day I was down there, and one day a review of Po’ Boys started out front as well.
**Ok, one more observation on NOLA: An editor I used to work for liked to play the parlor game, “What’s the best newspaper name?” It’s kind of a fun newsroom conversation that we waste time with; I’ve always liked newspapers called “Bee” for some inexplicable reason. But the beautiful and antiquated word “Picayune” on a masthead could never be topped. Try to use it in a sentence without thinking about the New Orleans newspaper; you can’t.