Thursday, 20 September 2012 19:42
Mourning news: Ex-New Orleans Times Picayune fans can get Advocates from Baton Rouge
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dead-newspaper    So let me get this newspaper thing straight. The Times-Picayune, our beloved local wipe, is cutting to three days a week because the print edition is losing money and most people get their news online anyway. But in a move that suggests they don't exactly believe that, the Baton Rouge Advocate announces it will soon offer home delivery to customers in New Orleans seven days per week. Then the T-P comes back and says it will open a Baton Rouge office of 16 people to "expand its focus" on the capitalcity while trimming staff at home.



     This all sounds like a remake of The Front Page, written by Rube Goldberg and directed by Busby Berkeley, starring the Keystone Kops and Corporal Klinger. (Anybody under 40 can Google the preceding sentence for enlightenment.)

     Does anybody but me see this newspaper war as inconsistent, or even a little bit bitchy? It would almost resemble an old-time newspaper war in the days when New York had a dozen dailies and even cities like Baltimore and Philadelphia had three or four going head to head. But, unlike those wars, this one will leave some readers without a valid option.

     In announcing its incursion into Baton Rouge, the masters of the three-day TP, or TP3 for short, must believe most starving Saints fans in the capital city get their news online. Of course, the TP3 will offer "targeted" home delivery, whatever that means, in parts of Baton Rouge as well as the "Black and Gold Extra" on Mondays during football season. Likewise, the Advocate all of a sudden must have recognized that all those LSU fans in New Orleans must be accommodated in the absence of a seven-day rag. 

     Many New Orleans readers and businesses believe the TP3 reduction represents a bail-out of the newspaper on its core readership. Everybody does not get their news online. Granted, printing and delivery costs have skyrocketed in recent years. For the newspaper to make money on the traditional model would probably push the daily price to $3 or more. So why did they not consider a price increase? Raise the price for those who want to pay and give everyone else the option of reading it for free online. Don't just pull the plug and flip off thousands of loyal readers. Their grand strategy smacks of abandoning those tethered to newsprint until they all die out and the next generation won't even remember a newspaper that you can read, fold and mutilate at will.

     What am I going to do? I will probably give the picayunish TP3 a chance, but I do not expect to become enamored of It is a hard-to-navigate website. But I hope the powers on Howard Street at least do the decent thing in the newspaper's final traditional issue on September 30. Give the paper we all knew the farewell it deserves by inserting this on the obituary page: "Times-Picayune, died of unnatural causes on May 24, 2012 at age 175. Offspring of New Orleans Picayune and various consorts including the Times-Democrat and the States-Item, Survived by grieving, but resilient readership. Mourners may contact Baton Rouge Advocate for grief counseling and home delivery."


His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at his website:

Media games begin: Baton Rouge Advocate, New Orleans Times-Picayune Slugfest


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