Residents Expect New Orleans Paper Cut To Hurt

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans announced this week it would stop publishing seven days a week. The paper has a rich heritage and is widely loved in New Orleans. As Eileen Fleming of member station WWNO reports, when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the paper continued to report despite danger and days-long power outages.

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New Orleans had endured so much - the Civil War, yellow fever, the Depression and a string of spectacular political shenanigans, but its award-winning daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, has not been able to survive as a daily. Eileen Fleming of member station WWNO reports now on the diminution of a paper that's continued reporting during the darkest days of Hurricane Katrina.

EILEEN FLEMING, BYLINE: Ann Milling traces her New Orleans ancestors back centuries on her mother's side. For nearly five decades the 175-year-old newspaper has landed on her city doorstep every day of the week.

ANN MILLING: I'm passionate about the Times-Picayune and I'm passionate about New Orleans and I think that they go hand in glove.

FLEMING: Newhouse Newspapers, which owns the Times-Picayune, is cutting staff and planning to publish only three copies a week. That leaves New Orleans the biggest U.S. city without a daily paper. Daily news coverage will be available only online at NOLA.com. Milling says she can't stand the thought of no longer having the paper with her morning coffee with chicory and she has a plan. She purchased a web address called savethepicayune.com.

Milling is a prominent philanthropist and is brainstorming with her influential circle of friends to find a solution. Times-Picayune journalists won Pulitzer Prizes, risking their live covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and now Milling says they shouldn't be denied reporting the city's recovery with traditional ink and paper.

MILLING: This to me was the biggest blackout one could have at this particular time in our history. I think it's so important to have a daily newspaper where you are kept apprised of what's going on politically, civically, nationally, internationally.

FLEMING: Twenty-nine-year-old Erin Crawl photographs and collects newspaper front pages. She's done it for years along with her father, a history teacher whose collection dates back to the 1960s.

ERIN CRAWL: Now, we'll be printing off screen shots from NOLA.com instead of having that front page for our daily lives and the record of our life here.

FLEMING: Crawl is an exception to others of her generation, according to Tulane University journalism professor Paul Greenberg. He says most people around her age embraced online news years ago. What he finds interesting now is the timing of the cutbacks - the Time Picayune is number one in 50 large markets for its rate of readership.

PAUL GREENBERG: I think it's bold, what they're doing, and my opinion won't be popular because a lot of people in New Orleans are really mad about this, but I've got to say, from a business standpoint I think it's smart.

FLEMING: Actor Jeff Pope was relaxing at a coffee shop with his smartphone on the table, not a newspaper.

JEFF POPE: I get up in the morning and I drink coffee and I look on the Internet. And I look at NOLA.com. It's easier than the paper. I like having a tangible paper but it's kind of irrelevant now.

FLEMING: National writer Micheline Maynard has seen the digital switch pulled on her hometown paper, the Ann Arbor News. The same Newhouse Company that's cutting back at the Times-Picayune, applied the same formula three years ago at its Ann Arbor paper. It now has only two copies delivered weekly and the paper's banner itself is called annarbor.com.

MICHELINE MAYNARD: New Orleans can expect a big hole in its heart.

FLEMING: Copies of the Times Picayune are said to be printed on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays only starting this fall. For NPR News, I'm Eileen Fleming in New Orleans.

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