June 16, 2012 4:41:45 PM
It was sad news last week when The Times Picayune, New Orleans' daily paper became New Orleans' three-day-a-week paper. After 175 years, the publication is going digital, and no more home delivery. Mon Dieu! What a tragedy.
In my teen years we had two dailies in New Orleans, The Times Picayune (morning) and The States Item (afternoon). My father was a news junkie who subscribed to both. This was a good thing for my sister, brother and me, as well. It meant we got two entirely different sets of comics every day.
My parents read two papers a day because the editorial perspectives were politically independent (as were my parents, who almost always voted differently from each other). Each paper endorsed different candidates and explained why they backed one or another.
Later, when The Item closed its doors, the two papers merged into one morning edition awkwardly dubbed The Times Picayune-States Item. Quite an inelegant name for so venerable a publication.
(Just as an aside -- Paul McCartney visited one Carnival season and was interviewed by a reporter. Sir Paul claimed to really enjoy reading The Times Biscayne and The Statesman. Oh well, everyone knew the name was too cumbersome. Eventually, the States Item was dropped from the title.)
I suppose all newspapers will ultimately become digital. This is interesting for those who are sort of straddling generations. A few years ago I took a class at the Mississippi University for Women with students who could have been my grandchildren. Almost none of them read The Commercial Dispatch. They got their news online. This year, I led a Life Enrichment class, also at The W, with students mostly of my generation. Many of them did not own or use computers. The gap widens.
It is noteworthy, too, that our small area of Mississippi can support three local papers -- The Dispatch, The Columbus Packet and The Real Story. Like the Picayune and Item of a few decades ago, these publications are all quite different.
The Dispatch is a daily (almost) with local, national and global stories. It has a decidedly family-friendly character. The Packet is published weekly. Their emphasis is on crime, accidents and heavy on police issues. The Real Story, also weekly, is a watchdog on the political scene. All have some very good reporters and quality writing.
My friend, Jane Lee, tells me she reads them all. I do, as well. There must be more than a few of us, because all three papers seem to be thriving. This is one sure way to catch up on all the news.
Last week, at a gallery opening, another artist asked me if I still write for the paper. "I don't get it anymore," she told me. I wanted to ask, "Why not?" But I held my tongue.
At the same opening, a friend commented that some reporters and photographers from all three publications were mingling in the crowded room. "Yes," I told her, "and we are all friends."
This is true. We all see each other at meetings of the City Council, or School Board, or Convention and Visitors Bureau. In The Golden Triangle, politicians, the powerful, the puffed-up posturers, all know they are being watched. Three cheers for a free press.
I suppose that even people like me will someday be forced to adapt to reading our news online. However, for now, locally, we can still enjoy the simple pleasure of holding a low-tech page of smudgy newsprint while drinking coffee with chicory and munching on a croissant. In New Orleans, readers can only do that three days a week.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. Email reaches her at [email protected]
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.