The Demise of the Times-Picayune

Posted by root | 24 May, 2012

It’s a major news story in New Orleans. The Times-Picayune will cease its daily publishing schedule for a three day a week printed newspaper. The top staffers are leaving and staff reporters will be cut dramatically according to published accounts. The paper will now focus on its online publication.

More and more people now get their news and information from the internet. Today you can be talking to friends about music from the 60’s. Who sang, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida? Was it Iron Butterfly?” A quick check on your iPhone reveals that is exactly who sang that 1968 song. What about “Incense and Peppermints?” You can check it out just as easily.

With emails, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sources, news can be delivered every day, right to your fingertips, all day and all night long. Stories from CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, ESPN, and financial news from Wall Street, including the ups and downs of the stock market minute by minute, are but a cell phone, computer, or iPad away. No need to wait for the 6 pm news or the morning paper. It is all right there. The world has changed. And now daily newspapers are changing too.

Let me say that I am no fan of the Times-Picayune, never have been and likely never will be. My problem has always been that in my opinion the paper has an agenda that is reflected in its news reporting. Many times the news stories are written in a way to lead the reader to a preconceived conclusion that is not always a fair representation of the news story itself. That is not the way it should be.

I have always felt that when a news story is published, it should stick to the facts of the story. Right or wrong the facts should be all that the story is about. If the story is important enough to cover, then it is important enough to state the facts without comment. If the media thinks that the Governor’s announcement or the Mayor’s press conference is important enough to send a reporter to cover, then the paper ought to report what the Governor or Mayor said and only what they said. If the paper or the reporter has an opinion about what was said, then publish that under the title “Opinion.” The paper and the reporters are certainly entitled to their opinions, but those opinions should be labeled as such and not incorporated into the news story. I don’t always want the Times-Picayune’s opinion. But I always want the news.

My other problem is that often the Times-Picayune is of just one opinion. Its editorial policy and its local columnists all reflect the same opinions. For example, the Times-Picayune has never been a fan of the homestead exemption, Louisiana’s tax break for homeowners. As a result both its editorial writers and its columnists take the same position which is opposition to the exemption especially when it comes to any adjustment for inflation. Now certainly there is merit in a newspaper having a columnist whose opinions don’t always mirror those of the publisher. It’s another point of view. Regrettably, at the Times-Picayune when it comes to editorial policy, it has been, “It’s our opinion… and yours too.”

With a new publisher and a new business plan, the Times-Picayune should strive to report the news in its purest form and become a more open, more varied publication. It can have its editorial opinion, but it should also have local columnists who think for themselves and have different opinions from the publisher. Let’s hope that with an enhanced online publication, the Times-Picayune can correct its weaknesses and shortcomings and become a publication that reports the news, promotes intellectual thought, and provides varied opinions on countless city, state, national, and world issues. It would be a breath of fresh air.

By the way this is an opinion, not a news story, so it is okay.