My Time at the Times Picayune + What does this all Mean for the Local Daily?

8 06 2012

Photo: Times Picayune

Twelve years ago (!!!), I began a summer internship with a newspaper that I read every day, never dreaming that my experience during that time would take me on the journey it has thus far. But it has. And that newspaper, The Times Picayune, is a large part of the reason that I am the writer I am today. Which is why I felt a particular amount of sadness when I learned a few weeks ago that it would be scaling back to only print 3 times a week and focus mostly on its online content.

Let me back up for a second.

In the summer of 2000, I was a short kid in high school, just finishing up my junior year and trying to decide what I wanted to do in life. I knew I loved to write; that had always been the case. From the very first time I sat next to my dad in front of his keyboard while he wrote a song, writing was my thing. I started writing “poems” as a young kid – mostly stuff I’d be far too embarrassed to show anyone now, but all stuff that I’ve kept in a binder since then.

It wasn’t until that summer, however, that I realized writing was a viable career option. You mean I could get paid? To write? I was floored! What was amazing was that I’d read the paper since I was a young girl, but until then, it just hadn’t dawned on me that I could do what they did. So, on that first day when I walked into the Times Picayune building, I had a  Cheshire cat smile so large you would have thought I was a baby playing peek a boo.  I was so green and so eager to learn from people that I read daily.

And I did learn. I learned how to thoroughly research for an article, the proper ways to interview and maintain your sources, design techniques for newspapers, editing techniques, and most importantly I began to hone my writing skills. I learned so much in fact that at the end of the internship, I found a way to convince them to hire me through the school year. And so, in the fall of 2000, I began my first official work as a journalist – covering Metro high school sports for a daily newspaper that not only distributed throughout the city of New Orleans, but throughout most of the state of Louisiana.

I was the only person in high school working in the Sports section, but these people didn’t care. I was now their peer (kinda). I was also the only woman working in the Sports section, but that’s another post for another time. They took me under their wings and showed me that not only could I do this journalism thing, but I was actually really good at it! And in my time during my senior year, I developed an entirely new appreciation for a daily newspaper. It wasn’t just the staple of my childhood (my grandparents were those people who woke up an hour earlier to have their cafe au lait and read the paper before getting dressed for work, so then I did as well); it was the way that respectable news was guaranteed to be delivered on a daily basis to the masses. It was the sense of responsibility these journalists took on to ensure that they upheld the idea of the journalist being the watchdog in our community and beyond.

I know we now live in a very digital age. People read dotcoms on their tablets and look to places like Twitter, Facebook, and TMZ for breaking news – but there’s something about a daily newspaper that’s still important to me. And there’s something really sad about a major metropolitan area no longer having a daily newspaper to serve them.

Will most people go on as if nothing has changed? Probably. I’m sure a large part of the reason for the scale down is a lack of daily subscriptions, because let’s face it – not everyone wants to wake up an hour earlier to read the paper like my grandparents did. But I do believe it will change the idea of investigative news down there, and it’s possible something like this could have a ripple effect throughout the country.

Sure there will still be innovative stories. I’m not taking anything away from online content. But something they tell you from the very beginning when you begin to write for the web (and a rule I break on here ALL THE TIME) is that people don’t want to read long articles on their computers. And online content specializes in trying to keep the focus of the ADD personalities we’ve all acquired these days. It’s not the same as a newspaper. It will never be the same as a newspaper. It’s an amazing complement to one, but I worry that this 3 days a week format will eventually be whittled down to just Sunday, and then just to Nola.com.

What do you all think? Am I just being nostalgic or does it concern you that a major daily will no longer print, daily? Finally, do you still read newspapers or have you completely transitioned over to the web for your news?

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