Feb 17, 201402:05 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Timing of Nagin Verdict Shows the Importance of Dailies
A daily Times-Picayune would have been nice for the Ray Nagin trial.
If you are only going to publish a home-delivered newspaper three times a week, and one of the missing days happens to be Thursday, you have to hope that nothing important happens on Wednesday afternoons. That, however, was the Newhouses' misfortune when the guilty verdicts in the Ray Nagin trial came down at 1 p.m. last Wednesday. Anyone wanting to read the details over breakfast was going to have to either trek to get a T-P Street, wait for the Friday Times-Picayune, or, most easily, read the Thursday home-delivered New Orleans Advocate.
Of course the Newhouses will argue that those who are interested could have read about the trial on NOLA.com, but this was not a story conducive to i-things, which are best for headlines and short descriptions. It was the type of story to be reported in detail with lots of informed writings and sidebars. That is exactly what the Advocate offered the next day – solid newspaper reporting, using nearly two and two-thirds pages, that pulled together the pieces of the story. (Included in the coverage was a classic photo by Matthew Hinton showing Nagin, his wife and attorney, all looking dejected walking from the court past a sign that said, "Welcome to New Orleans.") By the time subscribers got their home delivered T-P a day later, the story had already been told. It was time to move on.
Coverage by the Advocate was excellent and was provided by talented journalists, most of whom once worked for the T-P, but who left after the changes. There was some good staff reporting by the T-P, too, they just did not have a timely forum to present their information.
Relatively new to this trial was Twitter, on which folks could check bursts of information from reporters in the courtroom. Here, though, television and newspapers played on the same field. Both the Advocate and T-P provided the service as did two of the stations. As a reader, the news flow was competent but it was like listening to a ball game on radio and not knowing the score. The play-by-play provided insight but we could only assume who was leading.
Of all media forms, in the end, this was a story for a daily newspaper and the Advocate rose to the occasion. Meanwhile, if the Newhouses cared and wanted to know more about the trial, they had an advantage denied to their subscribers in New Orleans. They could have read about it in the Thursday edition of The New York Times.