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The Times Are a Changing

by Emily O'Shaughnessy

I just read the sad news about The Times-Picayune.

It was announced today that the New Orleans daily newspaper, which has been around for 175 years, will print only three days a week beginning this fall. Even though the Picayune has the highest circulation per capita of any U.S. metro area, it is the first newspaper in a major city to drop daily print.

Yes, I know we are in a digital age and this shouldn’t be a shock. With people getting their news online and advertising dollars shifting away from newspapers it was bound to happen sooner or later. I also know I’m in the dwindling minority that actually still reads a print edition. But I don’t care.

My head tells me all the reasons this had to happen. I’m in marketing, I should welcome new media advancement and embrace social change. Normally I do, and I’m sure in time I’ll accept this one, too. But there is a soft spot in my heart for newspapers, particularly the Picayune. I do love that paper.

Newsprint on My Fingers

I know I’m old school, but I love my newspaper in the morning. It goes better with my coffee than reading an iPad, and a little newsprint on my fingers keeps it real. When I browse the paper I read great articles that I would never have actually clicked through to read online. In addition to the news and business headlines, I read to find out what’s going on in my community before moving on to the lifestyle, travel and food sections.  I’ll browse the sports so I can occasionally surprise my husband with some trivial football fact. And if it’s Sunday you can find me surrounded by ads, real estate, travel and good ole PARADE.

So you see, all much more informative – and entertaining – than clicking on a new headline tweet.

Love for Newspapers

I’ve read the paper for as long as I can remember. In middle and high school I read The Gazette (Colorado Springs) and later the Abilene Reporter News for social and community news, as well as high school sports. In college I was too cheap to buy my own subscription, but more than once I “borrowed” the Coloradoan (Fort Collins) delivered to the frat house next door. True story – I would read it, roll it back up and place the bag back on the front lawn right where I found it. Sometimes those guys would go days without bringing them in and they’d have 4 or 5 papers piled up. It drove me crazy.

After college one of my friends became a reporter for The Denver Post so I faithfully read the paper every day checking the bylines for her name. I thought she had the most glamorous job. As it turns out she’s still with The Post, and still as glamorous as ever from their DC bureau.

Perhaps I’m also nostalgic because my first job out of college was in circulation marketing for USA TODAY.  My major accounts were hotels (you know when you wake up at a hotel in the morning and there’s a paper at your door? It was my job to convince the hotels it should be USA TODAY).  I loved and still do love that paper. I read that one online these days, unless I’m traveling and am lucky enough to come across the real deal.

Then I moved to New Orleans in 2002 and fell in love with The Times-Picayune. There is just something wonderful and unique about that paper. It’s different than any other city’s, although I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that sets it apart. But like so many New Orleans entities it has character, wit and personality. It is smart, clever and and has a great food section. And of course, a little Lagniappe.

No One Frames a Web Page Printout

In this digital age it’s nice to have something physical to hold on to. And, if so inclined, to keep. I know I’m not alone in saving the front pages from significant news events.  For example, I have copies of newspapers from the following:

  • Front page of USA Today from September 12, 2001
  • Houston Chronicles from 7/25/07 and 3/2/10. The significance? Those are the days my daughters were born, and I thought it would cool to one day show them what was happening in the world when they entered it
  • Multiple front pages from The Times-Picayune during the last week of August 2005. Katrina.
  • February 8, 2010 – AMEN! Saints won the Super Bowl!

Would it be the same if I had a web page printout from my crappy inkjet printer? Not so much.

So yeah, in time I suppose I’ll adjust to our dying newsprint world. And for now, since I live in Houston I can still enjoy my Chronicle each morning, as well as The Villager, our weekly community newspaper of which I’m also very fond. But I’m sad for all the New Orleanians who will sit down to a beignet and coffee one Monday morning this fall and realize something is missing. A big something.

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