Feb 25, 201309:44 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
The Times-Picayune Fiasco: Hey Ricky, Print Isn’t So Bad
Speaking before a conference of publishing officials in New Orleans recently, Ricky Mathews, the Newhouses’ publisher of The Times-Picayune, had this to say about moving the newspaper's reporting staff to Canal Place from the former T-P facility, according to a report in the newsletter of the Poynter Institute:
“We felt like the physical move was extremely important,” Mathews said. “We wanted to change a culture and move away from the print-centric culture.”
Huh? Moving from a “print-centric culture!”
Hey Ricky, a print-centric culture hasn’t been so bad. That’s how the Guttenberg bible was distributed; how American colonialists first read about the Declaration of Independence; how the Allied Victory in Europe was announced; how a vaccine for polio became known; how the Watergate scandal was uncovered; how The Times-Picayune won its Pulitzers; how we along the Gulf Coast received much of our recovery information. Even when we already knew the outcome, The Times-Picayune headline that said simply “Amen” immortalized the Saints' Super Bowl win.
People have died in wars so that other people can live in a print-centric world where the press is free. Print-centric is an ideal, not a dirty world.
We know, the idea is supposed to be that digital has replaced all that, but for all the dazzle of digital, there is a sense of obligation that comes with reading a printed newspaper, a sense that does not come from scrolling along an electronic screen.
According to the Poynter coverage by freelance reporter Carlie Kollath Wells, Mathews also said this about the changes at The Times-Picayune:
"This is a 50 chapter book,” he said. “The first chapter was we decided to make a bold change. This is chapter two. So far, so good, but we’ve got a lot to learn. Hopefully as a result of things that are successful for us and the mistakes we make, you can learn from that."
There are two curious points about that comment. One is that he seems to be acknowledging the possibility of mistakes. (Hey Ricky we’re with you on that one.) The other is that in making his analogy, he used a print-centric metaphor by referring to chapters – as in books.
See Ricky, there is a place for print after all.
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