Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Sometimes-Picayune: Chris Rose's Autobiographical Obit for a Once Great American Newspaper

 "...Sure, I’m far from objective—a self-styled, ink-stained wretch and True Believer—but anyone with even marginal intelligence could reason that as long as there were subways, park benches, box scores, and men’s rooms, there would be newspapers. Every newspaper is vital to its community: the chronicler, watchdog, record keeper, yada yada. It’s a given. Especially in New Orleans.

The Times-Picayune, after all, is different. Or maybe that’s the wrong word. It’s more that New Orleans is different. In New Orleans, the Picayune is woven so deeply into the cultural fabric that it’s impossible to overstate its role as informer, arbiter, entertainer, cheerleader, advocate, and companion. Among the scores of Letters to the Editor published since the paper’s announcement to go digital, many have implored the owners to reconsider, calling the morning paper a “friend.” Has anybody in Westchester County ever called the New York Times his or her “friend”? I realize that the rest of America, in its post-Katrina fatigue, is pretty tired of hearing New Orleanians always carrying on about how it’s the most unique city in America, but, the fact is, it is. Get over it..." 

"...True story: For the first three days after Hurricane Katrina, the paper published online only, an unwitting model for the future, perhaps. Then it contracted with the Houma Courier and Mobile’s Press-Register to print its papers—eight pages with no advertising or syndicated features—and ship them to New Orleans.

It was impossible to find. I was living and working in the city, and writing for the paper, and in the first several weeks laid eyes on only a handful of editions. One day, while visiting a hotel suite at the downtown Sheraton which was serving as a makeshift newsroom, a guy walked in the room with several bundles of that day’s paper. On a whim, I grabbed a stack and headed out into the streets..." More>>