Open letter to Steve Newhouse: New Orleans needs a daily 'Times-Picayune'
Dear Mr. Newhouse,
Getting rid of the daily Times-Picayune is like closing down Galatoire's, ending Jazz Fest, and moving out the Saints all rolled into one. I'm writing this not out of nostalgia for the past but out of urgency for the city's future. New Orleans needs a daily Times-Picayune. The city is still recovering and rebuilding from one of the worst disasters in recent American history. It was a disaster that your paper did a heroic job covering. Journalists risked their lives for the city they loved and justly received international recognition for their hard work. It was one the finest moments for your media empire. But you are about to turn that victory into a sad defeat. All of that hard work and recognition is going to be flushed away if the daily paper ceases operations.
While I agree that someday newspapers will be replaced almost entirely by new media, New Orleans is not the place where that bold experiment should be launched. Thousands and thousands of Times-Picayune readers do not have easy access to the Internet or the wherewithal to read the paper electronically. These are the people who your newspaper was designed to help -- and they have loyally read it each day until their own name appeared in the death notices. Your paper championed their cause. These are the people who may miss your daily newspaper the most.
Simply put: by ceasing operation of the daily paper, you are comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted. Corrupt politicians should be celebrating on Bourbon Street tonight, knowing there will be whole days of the week where no newspaper will appear, probing their misdeeds. And don't claim that some web edition will adequately replace the daily paper; that's like telling a man who is getting his arm amputated that he'll still be able to clap. The web does not have the power and reach that a newspaper does. It can't be read over eggs and bacon, folded up and brought to the Fairgrounds or the Superdome. It can't be handed to someone else. And it costs less than a dollar.
New Orleans has so much news, culture, food, and music to write about that journalists in other cities drool at the opportunity that Times-Picayune reporters are given. It's a first-class city and deserves to be treated that way by your corporation. You own a public trust and you're about to close it it down on certain days of the week. I realize that times are tough but pulling the plug on the daily paper is like raising a white flag. Imagine if all the residents of the city gave up on New Orleans and moved away after Katrina? Don't pull up the ladder to the attic.
Lastly, you were the first person to give me a paying job in journalism. I worked at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J., as an intern in the summers of 1989 and 1990 while I was a college student. You hired me and gave me a start and a chance to make a difference. It hurts me deeply to see someone who I feel contributed so positively to my life make such a negative decision. Please reconsider this move that will be so bad for the Newhouse empire and the great city of New Orleans.
Rockaway Beach, NY
Bob Hardt is Political Director and Executive Producer for NY1 News, and has written for Capital about horse-racing and opera.