Saturday, June 16, 2012

-30-.

Wall of front pages from the Newseum's "Covering Katrina" exhibit.
About three weeks ago, Advance Publications announced it would end daily publication of The Times-Picayune, New Orleans' last remaining daily newspaper. The 175-year-old newspaper will be moving to a three-day publication schedule, with an increased emphasis on online news. The decision makes New Orleans the largest city in the U.S. without a daily publication. The Times-Picayune also announced 200 layoffs last week--half of its staff--including veteran journalists and long-time employees of the newspaper. I think This photo via Twitter from Ann Maloney, the paper's arts and entertainment editor, says it all.

(The title of this blog post comes from an old copy editor's code for "end of story." Many staff members announced their layoffs on Facebook this way.)

This news absolutely broke my heart. The Times-Picayune was a great daily newspaper, and it's a shame that Advance Publications chose to go in this direction--especially given that a third of New Orleans' residents, according to NPR, don't have internet access. After reading 1 Dead in Attic, I felt as if The Times-Picayune was more than just a newspaper in a place I'd never been. It was a pivotal part of American history, and one that I watched in real-time through my television back in 2005 and experienced on a whole different level last year at the Newseum.

After I saw the "Covering Katrina" exhibit at the Newseum the first time, I felt unsettled, sick. The second time I went back to the Newseum to see it, I was still upset, but inspired by the strength of the journalists who sought the truth and told the stories buried underneath the water and amongst the rubble.

The Times-Picayune was essential to documenting Hurricane Katrina. "They just wanted a newspaper," the exhibit quoted an editor as saying. And damn, did they report. They stayed the storm, stuck through the horrors--through ruined digital equipment, no electricity, and more, as they biked where they could and did their best to report while also helping those in pain.

The one thing that struck me the most about Chris Rose's writing in 1 Dead in Attic was the resilience of the people of New Orleans. What happened in 2005 was devastating, and the period of abandonment they endured was even worse. To read about the refrigerator museum and the shock over the looting made me think about what my life would be like if my community was turned upside down. The culture, the people, the city...there's something about the spirit of New Orleans that is unique, and to know that The Times-Picayune will no longer be a part of its daily story is a tragedy.

Artifacts from the newsroom during the hurricane, including handwritten
notes by reporters and the white board used to keep track of events.
(Photos from "Covering Katrina" by yours truly.)

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