Despite the positive spin on things at Nola.com, or the thoughtful critiques and acknowledgement of a changing world from pundits far and wide … it felt like a funeral.
“I lost a friend,” one Times-Picayune reporter posted on Facebook, following the announcement that the newspaper would go more digital come fall, with only three newspapers published each week.
In a bit of cosmic irony, social media online filled quickly with lamentations to and from the people who make their livings via ink and paper:
I’m sorry that all of you are having to deal with so much pain.
Thanks to my wonderful Facebook family. Your love and support means the world to me, today more than ever.
I wouldn’t know where to begin. So I will just say a simple thank you to you all with a lot of love attached to it.
It’s the end of the world as I know it, and I feel terrified.
Damn. Turns out it wasn’t all just a bad dream. Paradigm still shifted.
As email in-boxes filled with condolences, Times-Picayune reporters past and present gathered Thursday night at Molly’s at the Market for the wake.
They gathered around an early copy of the next morning’s edition, their faces as solemn and morose as any grieving relatives contemplating unexpected and irretrievable loss. NEWSPAPER TO MOVE FOCUS TO DIGITAL, read the banner headline.
I wasn’t there; I try not to do funerals. But I am sure that, as at any proper New Orleans wake, memories were shared, amusing stories told, anecdotes relived, and copious amounts of alcohol consumed.
Celebration of a life is a key component of any observation of a death.
My mother used to say that, as one soul leaves this world, another enters it. That seemed a particularly poignant observation when my first daughter was born on the eve of my grandfather’s death.
As it does now. In this instance, too, the dearly departed will be replaced by a new being: a “more robust” if less frequent edition of The Times-Picayune, coupled with a much-enhanced web presence at Nola.com.
And, as in life, we must mourn the dead and nurture the living.
As a feature writer and editor there for 32 years, I knew The Times-Picayune intimately, in all her strengths and weakness. I watched her evolve from the gangly child of a blended family, the 1980 merger of The States-Item and The Times-Picayune, to a mature and responsible leader of her community – one who earned major accolades for her services to the city.
Like New Orleans itself, The Times-Picayune spawned a fiercely proud, closely knit family. That fact was evidenced yesterday by the many responses from former Times-Picayune reporters across the globe – responses that came from successful journalists who, when they left, obviously took a little piece of the New Orleans daily newspaper with them.
“Anybody who has had the pleasure of living in New Orleans and working at The Picayune feels like there’s always a tie there,” Rebecca Thiem, a former political reporter for the TP who lives and works in Las Vegas, told John Pope in a story in The Times-Picayune. “Even though I’ve been gone almost 18 years, it continues to be the place that shaped me the most professionally and the place for which I have the most affection.”
The same holds true for all of us who spent formative years in the halls at 3800 Howard Avenue.
I will miss the elegant old lady exiting the stage. I will mourn her.
But I will also do my best to be part of that village needed to raise her replacement – the three-times-a-week print edition and the newly enhanced digital one. Because yesterday’s news was not merely a death announcement, but a birth announcement as well.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie.