One reformed journalist will miss the "local wipe!"by J.W. Miller on 07/01/19
My old boss Jim Finks referred to the New Orleans Times-Picayune as the local wipe. I can’t attest to the effectiveness of the T-P in neighborhood outhouses, as Finks suggested, but as a reformed journalist I admired the job they did. Their reporters were usually on top of a story, and if one wasn’t enough they would dispatch a legion to determine whatever particular truth needed revealing. That admiration was often tested when their ink-stained wretches wrote something that I thought was incorrect or misleading. When the “Times Pick On You” tossed another dead cat over the wall, Finks would address me like a former towel boy in Storyville: “Your buddies are at it again.”
Local journalism is today’s topic because the Times Picayune that has carried that name for a century has been rebranded with the New Orleans Advocate - whose ownership bought the TP - sharing the masthead. As a former scribbler and historian, I regret whenever a newspaper undergoes a seismic change. Many fine newspapers that were screaming headlines in every major city when I came into the business have long since died. I worked for two courageous newspapers during my 11-year career – the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Baltimore Evening Sun – the former still operating like a pre-owned vehicle with multiple owners and the other alive only in the memories of guys like me.
A sale or merger is not a death, but a first look at the new joint effort this morning did represent an obituary of sorts. The names that had become familiar on TP stories were absent and a new set of writers were now telling me that the Pelicans are still adding players and that the Saints have about three weeks left until training camp. A new broom in any business sweeps out old favorites, like sports columnist Jeff Duncan, who will not be retained but wrote a wonderful farewell in the TP’s final issues. I’m sure other familiar names were also sacrificed with the now-familiar “buy out” of their profession.
Ironically, some current Advocate reporters and editors were given “buy outs” at the TP in the past few years then immediately went to work for the new paper in town. Some of the recently jettisoned TP staffers will stay busy, adding to the plethora of free online forums, blogs and podcasts that don’t pay much, if at all, but allow them the professional pride of keeping their craft alive.
When I came to New Orleans in 1986, beat guys like John Jones, Dave Lagarde, Brian Allee-Walsh and Mike Strom were covering the Saints while columnists such as Peter Finney and Bob Roesler told readers the real stories behind the headlines. Jones was responsible for my first dressing down by Finks when I recommended J.J. to take my old job at the NFL. My boss was furious because “we finally have a good guy who writes facts, and you get rid of him.” Finks calmed down when I told him from first-hand experience that maybe Jones saw a better opportunity out there than humping every day for a story.
Although the names are new, I am excited to see what the new arrangement will bring to the city’s readers. The owner of the Advocate is John Georges, a wealthy New Orleans businessman who tried to come to our rescue after Hurricane Katrina devastated the University of New Orleans and our athletic department. Georges donated $1 million to our department on behalf of his trusted executive Gabe Corchiani, the former UNO basketball star. So, yeah, I like Georges and I’m pulling for him to write a new chapter in New Orleans’ journalism history. New name, new people, same mission.
Since I left the public eye, my only complaints with the T-P have been as a consumer. I was disappointed several years ago when the newspaper went to a three-day publishing schedule for home delivery. In a column, I designated the new abbreviated paper the “TP3,” a play on former Hornets star Chris Paul, whose nickname was “CP3.” I thought the paper’s attempt to put out an online edition that mimicked the actual page layouts was a great idea, but many stories were allowed to run two or three days without updating. Bad form!
Another complaint came after we moved out of the TP’s home delivery area. I called and tried to purchase an online-only subscription but was told the newspaper did not have an online-only edition available for subscription. At the time, I subscribed to three other newspapers’ online editions with no catch, but the TP would only give me online access if I purchased the Sunday home delivery. I argued with the sales person to no avail, so I gave them the address of my daughter who doesn’t read the newspaper but had an apartment with an address in the coverage area. She has since moved a couple of times, but I never changed the address on the Sunday delivery.
Today, I called and changed my subscription. The Advocate does not require Sunday delivery for online access. I just hope the person who moved into my daughter’s old apartment doesn’t miss the Sunday paper.