The Times-Picayune recently announced it will print a real newspaper only three days a week, not seven. New Orleans will be the first major American city to not have a daily paper.
I say almost go out of business because I am convinced they are just easing into the not-too-distant eventuality of ending the print version entirely.
The three-days-a-week ruse is akin to what corporations invariably say when major change looms, usually a buyout: Things will stay as before. You betcha.
And the print version on those three days will be entirely about delivering ads.
The newspaper will, in short order, go online 100 percent. And an online newspaper is not a newspaper at all. It’s a news website. Oddly, the T-P, as it is commonly called, has one of the most godawful websites you’ve ever laid eyes on.
(By the way, if you want to see excellent news websites, go to The Los Angeles Times or The Guardian in the United Kingdom.)
I say the T-P was my first newspaper, but that’s not quite so. It was The States-Item where I started in 1969 at age 24 for $115 a week, but the papers shared the same building, the same presses and the same newsroom. We worked mornings. They worked evenings.
And later, I switched to the T-P. Even later, the papers merged.
I was a reporter at first, like Clark Kent, but it took less than six months for me to realize I was not cut out to deal with amok humanity, a personality trait that hasn’t changed.
In 1970, I requested an indoor job as a copy editor, and I got it.
American life was evolving rapidly. Dad didn’t want to read a newspaper after work. He watched Walter Cronkite instead, so afternoon dailies lost their readership and folded.
In 1980, the T-P took over the S-I, but I had switched to the morning paper years earlier.
* * * *
I caught the very end of the fun era of newspapers. The people were eccentric. Almost all were boozers. Women only worked on “society pages.” Reporters used antique typewriters, and we editors used pencils and glue pots to stick the pages together, head to tail.
Those pages went downstairs to be set into type on a huge iron machine with a keyboard.
Ever so gradually, it changed. Modernity arrived. Women became real reporters. Boozing was frowned upon. Computers, first primitive, later first-rate, changed the newspaper world.
And the people changed too. Watergate made a massive difference. What had been a vagabond’s occupation became trendy, and university journalism departments were jammed.
Everybody wanted to be Woodward or Bernstein.
When I grabbed early retirement in 1999, you would have been hard pressed to distinguish a modern newsroom from any insurance underwriters’ office. And those people who once were vagabonds had become boring careerists fixated on their futures and 401-Ks.
I don’t miss it.