NA IMPRENSA INTERNACIONAL >
Papers in New Orleans and across Alabama cease daily publication
BY ONE measure, it was dying. In March 2005 the daily circulation of the Times-Picayune, the best newspaper in New Orleans, was around 257,000, up to 285,000 on Sundays. Seven years later those numbers had dropped to 134,000 and 155,000. Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005; in 2010 the city’s population was just 71% of what it had been in 2000.
By other measures, though, the Times-Picayune was thriving. Its market penetration was 65%, the fourth-highest of any newspaper in the country. And it was continuing to do excellent investigative work. But the decline in newspaper advertising revenue hit the paper hard, and on May 24th it announced that it will cease daily publication this autumn.
That will make New Orleans America’s biggest city without a daily newspaper. In future, the paper will come out on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Advance Publications, a media conglomerate that owns the Times-Picayune, announced similar changes at three of its Alabama newspapers: the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Press-Register in Mobile.
These four are merely the latest group of newspapers to combine print cutbacks and digital expansion. The Detroit Free Press is published on seven days a week but is delivered to subscribers on only three. Other Advance-owned newspapers across Michigan have also restricted deliveries of print editions while moving their focus online.
New companies—NOLA Media Group and Alabama Media Group—were announced at the same time as the reduction in print editions. The former has promised to “significantly increase” and the latter to “dramatically expand” their newsgathering operations online. Exactly how that will work with the big staff cuts that are expected at all four papers is unclear.
The effects of moving to a principally digital operation in two states with some of the lowest internet-usage rates in the country are also uncertain. The press has been called the watchdog of good government. Between 2001 and 2010, Louisiana and Alabama were among the ten most corrupt states, measured by public-corruption convictions per person and per government employee (Louisiana was top in both). What happens when nobody hears the watchdog bark?