Well folks I’m not quite sure where to start as Slabbed chips in another 2 cents worth on the remaking of the Times Picayune. By now I hope you guys have “Sometimes Picayune” fatigue but I know that is not the case with some of ya so here goes for those of you that want to get the deep down low on this topic. I haven’t had more to say on this since late July because Slabbed has been out on assignment doing high quality investigative journalism such as blowing open Aaron Broussard’s use of oversea business ventures as a conduit for graft and bribery and uncovering a specious real estate transaction involving a small school district. You lifers well know these are far from the only skins hanging on the wall here at the worldwide headquarters of Slabbed New Media as we’ve become a powerful voice in the local media landscape in our own right.
People are naturally resistant to change, to the point where it is to their detriment. It is a well-studied topic and one in which I am familiar via my interest in behavioral economics. Throw in competing financial interests and it made for an interesting summer as Errol Laborde and the noisemakers made sure their newly disenfranchised voices would be heard loud and clear via sheer mass and repetition. Occasionally something highly insightful would be written, mostly in the new media on websites like American Zombie and Library Chronicles along with certain trade journals. Since the news broke in May media alliances have been made, broken and remade. As a long time blogger on stock message boards the business implications of the spectacle were both informative and amusing to me as I often thought of the following while watching the gyrations:
Now don’t get me wrong, when the 500 pound gorilla in the room decides it is time to go on a diet the local inhabitants of the forest are going to be impacted especially since local food sources have been on a drastic decline. My problem is that even when it is shown that the numbers in the new Newhouse business model make sense, old line cognitive biases cause the noisemakers to ignore the “newsonomics” those numbers present. Leaky pay-walls are a joke and are easily defeated. The concept that the readers will make up for the drastic declines in advertising are a pipe dream along with the notion “the news”, whatever that is, has intrinsic value to the general public.
I guess what I am saying is that I agree with my colleague Jason Berry over at American Zombie that these are not terrible times in the local journalism scene, quite the opposite in fact is true. Speaking of Jason he has video embeds of the Rising Tide Conference along with the Oxford American New South Journalism Symposium over at his place. I attended the OA New South Journalism Symposium last week, thought the first panel was terrible but the second panel made up for it. If you only have an hour to kill I’d watch the Rising Tide Media panel because the tension between old and new media was thick, palatable and on display despite the fact most of the panelists seemed to agree on the need for change from the old line print media business models.
This is not why I finally wrote this post though because it took Jason trespassing on my beat today for me to speak up as he encapsulated the crux of the matter in a scant 5 paragraph post. It is great stuff.
My own two cents is the only change is there is no longer a newspaper to pick up from the driveway in the morning 7 days a week because the news cycle has not changed at all. Investigative Journalist/bloggers had already been “filling the void” and any new voids created by the restructuring represent opportunity, not loss. By my count there are 3 media outlets (old and new) that cover every square inch of uptown New Orleans and I think I heard 30 plus blogs etc that focus almost exclusively on Orleans Parish. As Jason points out in the RT media panel, New Orleans is incredibly well covered by the media and this does not count the TeeVee media, which routinely devote the lions share of their airtime to the City of New Orleans proper. The number 1 complaint I hear from people in the ‘burbs is they tire of seeing the murder du jour at night on the local news because it is not their local news.
Slabbed has a business strategy folks and I’d like to share it. One major component is to simply do what we’ve gotten very good at doing, which is following the money in pursuit of high quality investigative journalism. Along those lines I’ve cut the cord with the established media for the most part sharing tips etc because we’ve become a force to be reckoned with on the media scene in our own right. That doesn’t mean I don’t like seeing our topics gain wider exposure. OTOH the fact most established old line media outlets in this area try their best to ignore the new media is in fact the ultimate compliment because they all read us. Sites like Slabbed and AZ represent the cutting edge of the news cycle in that respect.
The other part of Slabbed business strategy is found in the military doctrine of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest:
“get thar fust with the most men”
This means I’m very content to cover the beats most everyone else is ignoring like Jefferson Parish, the largest Parish of the New Orleans Metropolitan area. As the local school board has found out this means Hancock County is fair game as well since it too is almost completely ignored by the regional media in this area. Worth noting is that while Glen Nardi and Stan Tiner have been talking trash with the Newhouse outlets based in Pascagoula and Mobile, the west end of the coast has no Sun Herald beat reporter as cuts in the McClatchy chain have hollowed out their newsroom. And yes, the Sun Herald now has an East Jackson County edition, the first issue of which we were treated to on the west end of the coast around a week ago. One word folks: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Since I started this post mentioning the stock message boards one of the old sayings when longs and shorts were trash talking each other is “time will talk” or as Jason says “And they’re out of the gate”. So far the good folks over at NOLA Media Group seem to be holding their own very nicely. Burdened by a declining advertising base and shackled by the ball and chain that is news printing 7 days a week I fear we’ll soon see the demise of one or more established old line media chains.