For all the ink spilled (sorry, bits uploaded) about the demoting of Ann Curry over at the Today show and whether or not David Gregory was in or out at Meet the Press, the most dramatic story in American media right now is still happening in New Orleans. The city’s daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, has a 175-year history. It was just about the only institution that managed to function during and just after Katrina. Even after the kind of budget cuts that small-minded owners in smaller media markets are so enamored of (“More With Less“), they were still putting out the kind of very strong investigative pieces that civic government needs to watchdog it.
Then came the news that the Times-Picayune owners were cutting back to three days a week. So, more layoffs. But no worries, the owners said, because our “enhanced” website is going to keep operating. One soon-to-be-laid-off reporter had an opinion on how that’s going to work and laid it out in a letter to the management:
I take a lot of pride in my work, even after I’ve been fired and told my experience, skills, and talents are of no use after Sept. 30. I know that I am good at what I do. But compared to other news outlets, our website is a joke. We break news – but no one would know because of the worst news website known to man and the priority setting – whoever is doing it, is totally ####. Embarrassing, compared to TV. And yet we are focused on digital now? Enhanced? Who is buying this crap?
Sad as this is, it does appear irreversible for the time being. For right now, New Orleans will be the only major American city without a daily print newspaper. It will not be the last. That means going forward, stories like this one will most likely not be uncovered. And the guilty will run free.