One of the biggest stories in the wider media is the current demolition job happening to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. This fall, the newspaper that has served New Orleans since 1837 will be cut from being published daily to just three days a week – Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday to focus more on online journalism. While the move is not unprecedented, it was met with disappointment and shock given the history of the Times-Picayune, its importance during Hurricane Katrina, and the growing trend of declining print newspapers.
However, the casualties are much more than just black ink on printed paper. Almost one-third of the Times-Picayune staff, or 201 employees, are being layed off by the new NOLA Media Group. In addition, 400 workers from 3 Alabama papers have also been cut from their positions. The name amongst the layoffs that stings the sports world greatest is that of longtime sports columnist Peter Finney. Those outside the Gulf region may not be aware of Finney, but he has been honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Dick McCann Memorial Award in 2010 and the Basketball Writers’ Hall of Fame earlier this year. He’s been a sportswriter since 1945. Just read this tribute article from fellow T-P staffer Jeff Duncan about what Finney meant to the paper, the city, and its sports fans. I’ll let the Times-Picayune itself explain in an article about Finney from November why this is such an unfortunate time for the paper and for the print media:
Peter Finney has been covering sports for 66 years. He joined the newspaper in June 1945, years before the New Orleans Saints had their first game, before the Hornets, the Jazz, or even the Buccaneers, scored their first basket.
After more than 10,000 bylines, his love of New Orleans sports continues.
Thanks to the gutting of the Times-Picayune, Finney’s love of New Orleans sports will outlast the paper he served for so long. After 67 years in the newspaper industry, Finney has been cast aside. Reportedly, Finney will be offered a freelance column, but losing his T-P staff job is a devastating symbolic blow to the newspaper industry. This unfortunate trend is growing, you may remember USA Today also letting go veteran sportswriters like Mike McCarthy amongst others as they also shift to a more digitally focused presence.
How far does this digital move go, though? Imagine Vin Scully being ditched from the Dodgers play by play booth in favor of live tweets during a game. It’s an unthinkable horror!
Some of you may be a bit perplexed why a blogger would mourn the loss of print columnists and staffers. Ideally, new and old media should be able to coexist because each brings something the other doesn’t to the table. New media shouldn’t totally engulf and devour old media like some sort of runaway monster. I’m all for blogging and the evolution of media, but I can’t pretend to offer what newspaper veterans can do at every level. The current evolution of media simply can’t sacrifice completely the value of print journalists, the daily newspaper and the countless individuals in the print industry.