Big changes at the Times-Picayune leave New Orleanians reeling
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012 12:08
On June 12, more than 200 writers, photographers and other Times-Picayune staff members were told they would no longer have a job come Sept. 30.
The layoffs came nearly one month after Advanced Publications, who owns The Times-Picayune, announced that it would become a non-daily newspaper only publishing a print paper on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. An emerging company, NOLA Media Group, will maintain news coverage digitally on NOLA. com on days without a paper copy.
New Orleans is now the largest city in the U.S. to not have a daily newspaper and is also one of the first cities to hurl itself into the digital age. However, the shift to a primarily digital medium threatens an integral component of journalism: the daily journalist.
“A lot of what people are reacting to is the loss of paper, but the paper is just a carrying mechanism. The thing we really should mourn is the daily journalist, all those people aren’t going to be doing their jobs,” said Michael Giusti, Maroon adviser.
The changes hit home for journalism students. “We need our information to be fast and
accurate, but it’s sad because we’re losing great storytellers and writers,” said Miranda Hernandez, mass communication senior.
With the loss of such a great number of writers, some beats, which is an area of a community in which a professional reporter covers in-depth, will be left uncovered or with significantly less coverage. This lack of reporting could minimize how relevant the paper will be to college students.
This summer the Times- Picayune repeatedly covered the proposed zoning changes that would effectively halt some building projects in the university area, specifically a Tulane football stadium. This is the kind of community coverage that is in danger as the Times-Picayune implements their changes.
According to Giusti, daily newspapers like The Times- Picayune lack the relevance, availability and affordability that college publications provide to their students. “Commercial daily publishers are not meeting daily consumers in their environment,” he said.
It is clear that with the correct content and marketing, college- aged students are in tune with the print world; The Maroon has an average monthly pick up rate of about 80 percent.
“There’s this idea we’re allergic
to paper, a feeling that college students don’t touch anything on paper. But we have very good readership with college papers. We just aren’t reading mass-market publications,” Giusti said.
This loss of the daily newspaper may lend itself to a new era of journalism.
Annette Sisco, Orleans parish community news editor and one of the 200 Times-Picayune employees that will lose their jobs on September 30, expressed a cautious optimism about the papers transition from a daily paper to a primarily online news source. “I think college students are getting their news online already. That’s why I hope this is a success. I hope they figure out how to deliver the news well to everybody online. It’s obviously the way of the future.”
Even if college-aged people are accessing their news online, there is still a big part of this city that is not. The New York Times reported in 2010 that 36 percent of the city did not have internet access.
“I think its important to have media that everyone can access and to the extent that people can’t afford the internet at home or don’t have smart phones, I think that’s going to be detrimental,” Sisco said.
Even though the layoffs at The Times-Picayune seem disheartening for students trying to find work, Sisco says students shouldn’t give up yet.
“Honestly, I think there’s going to be more opportunity than ever for people in the field because the shake up at The Times-Picayune is causing more competition in the local media. We’ve got the morning Advocate coming in to New Orleans and extending coverage, WWNO has announced an online newsroom, and I think it could create opportunities for people, so I would not despair,” Sisco said.
Cisco also has some advice for aspiring reporters in an evolving journalism environment.
“You still have to be a really good journalist or photographer, you just have to do it in new, different ways. Learn how to shoot videotape and create multi-media stories. Learn to present it on different platforms quickly and accurately. It’s going to be a more difficult field than ever, but there’s always going to be a need to report the news, however it’s delivered.”
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