Times-Picayune changes could hurt economic development

Published: May. 24, 2012 at 10:06 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2012 at 6:06 PM CDT
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Clerk at Lakeside News comments on changes at Times Picayune
Clerk at Lakeside News comments on changes at Times Picayune

New Orleans, La. — The planned cutbacks at the Times-Picayune have the mayor and business leaders concerned.

Some in the business community fear the developments involving the city's only daily newspaper could hurt economic development. The paper plans to offer a printed version only three days a week, starting in the fall.

And the news is jarring for many people in the area.  At Lakeside News, the presence of the Times-Picayune lures customers in each day.

"Without the newspapers every day, it's going to cut a lot of people out," said Jimmy Dempster, who works at the news stand.

Harry Henderson bought more than one newspaper Thursday. He is upset that the newspaper will begin scaling back its distribution.

"I don't like it, I don't like it. I like reading the Times-Picayune," Henderson said.

Larry Lorenz is Professor Emeritus of Mass Communications at Loyola University. He is not totally surprised at the developments, given the drop in advertisement dollars throughout the newspaper industry. Lorenz wrote for United Press International for a time before coming to New Orleans.

"You could see it in the daily paper.  It's like an old man, you know, he's 175 years old, he's getting thinner and thinner every day, so something had to be done, I am sure," he said.

While Lorenz was not shocked by the news, some movers and shakers in the city were taken aback.

"We were surprised and disappointed," said Suzanne Mestayer, who chairs the Business Council of New Orleans.

The impact on jobs is one big concern.  "Obviously, we have some concerns about what lies in the future in that regard," Mestayer said.

And looking at the bigger picture, there are questions about whether the absence of a printed daily newspaper will affect ongoing efforts to attract new businesses to the Crescent City.

"I certainly don't think it helps, and that's one of the reasons why it was such a surprise. It does seem like this is from an economic perspective.  This doesn't conjure up images of a major U.S. city, which I know we are, and it would be better if we continue to have it… I do believe that it will have an impact on us economically from a variety of ways," added Mestayer.

Here's another consideration: When the Super Bowl is played in the city next year, there will not be a newspaper heralding the score on Monday morning.

In a statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, "For 175 years, the Times-Picayune has been a mainstay in this region… the hundreds of jobs at the paper are important to our community… I look forward to talking with new management and others who have a stake in the future of the Times-Picayune to discuss how we can help the newspaper grow, and not diminish," Landrieu stated.

"We would absolutely join in whatever effort is proposed to try to ensure that the Times-Picayune remains here in New Orleans, alive and well," Mestayer added.

Only time will tell whether the newspaper will begin charging readers to access its information online, as some other publications such as the New York Times are doing.

"I think it's entirely possible," Lorenz said.