“We have no intention of selling (The Times-Picayune) no matter how much noise there is out there.”
That was the eulogy Steven Newhouse read at Tuesday’s funeral for our beloved Times Picayune. Only he didn’t deliver it in person. He read it over the phone. To The New York Times.
Which leads me to ask all of us mourners, we family members of the dearly departed, the following question: What. The. F%*#?
Do they not teach manners and class up there in New Jersey where (un)Advanced Publications is based? Who raised this man? Leona Helmsley and Alec Baldwin?
201 people lost their jobs on Tuesday. That noise Mr. Newhouse heard was the sound of tears over the death of an institution. Of anger at the sheer incompetence that caused the death. Of gratitude for TP’s classy cousin, The Chicago Tribune, which dialed in a bar tab at Wit’s Inn for the bereaved.
And of the plotting of next steps. Because, let’s be clear. We may have lost a battle. But we’re going to win this war.
Because we’re New Orleans, damn it. This is our city. Our family. Our paper. And, you know, if Mr. Newhouse won’t sell the paper he’s just killed, well, then, let’s play a little game of community-based capitalism and start our own.
Think about it.
We, the people, have the power. The power, that is, to read what we want, where we want. Right now, Mr. Newhouse thinks New Orleans needs Advance Publications. But, the truth is, Advance Publications needs New Orleans.
Because if we don’t read the Some-Times-Picayune, it opens the door for someone(s) with more money — who loves our city more than Steve Newhouse — to come in and invest in a real daily operation. The kind our city deserves. And not just the one it used to have yesterday, but the one it ought to have today. Online and in print.
We, the people, have the talent. Right this very moment, there are 84 reporters who I bet would love to help the hundreds of other great journalists and writers in this city birth a new daily. One that doesn’t just talk about meeting the needs of our community, but that actually does. 24/7.
And, among the other 117 people who were laid off yesterday, I am quite certain there are more than a few designers, marketers, illustrators and photographers who could produce a far superior look and feel than the (not hot) mess that calls itself nola.com. I mean, that site’s homelier than one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. And, by the way, would the person who thought it was a good idea to introduce beige to our colorful city please raise his or her hand? And take your beige back? Thank you.
Now, I know there are some who say, “But how can you go up against nola.com? It gets 1 million clicks per week.” I’ll tell you how. Web traffic is driven less by brand and more by content. And there is no way you can be the content leader when you have cut 50 percent of your newsroom. No way.
We, the people, are New Orleans. Come on, gang. We’ve been flooded by broken levees, greased by busted pipes, and pillaged by corrupt politicians. And, you know what? We’re still here. We don’t just out-party, out-eat, out-dance, out-everything anyone else from anywhere else. We outlast ’em, too. And there ain’t no way we’re going to stand by while somebody from New Jersey disrespects our family, our paper, our city in The New York Times. No way.
So, to paraphrase my dear friend, Big Red Cotton, here’s what’s gonna happen.
We’re going to put together a new daily here. Maybe it’s some formal collaboration between the already great locals like The Lens, Gambit, Nola Defender and, of course, Nola Vie. Maybe it’s something altogether different. Maybe it’s something in between. People far more knowledgeable than I will figure that out.
And we’re going to use our power, our talent, our city to make that daily the news source. In print and online. The news leader. 24/7.
The news source, the news leaders, that will compete against nola.com 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
And it’s going to win. 365 days a year.
And rather than be known as the largest city without a daily, New Orleans will be known as the city that is reshaping local news by mixing tradition with innovation, power with talent, business with community.
That’s how it’s getting ready to go down.
Steven Newhouse may not “get” that. Just like he does not “get” our city (or the noise we’re making).
But, you know what? He will. “Get” all of the above. Soon. Very soon.
This column is dedicated to Lonnie Johnson, Jonathan Lewis, Miguel Mayan, David Peters, and an as-yet-identified 74-yeard-old Gentilly woman — all our members of our New Orleans family. All were murdered in the past week.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.