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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Simple Pleasure and the Times Picayune

All week I work either in front of a computer screen or in collaboration with people who either want something from me and my team or who need to be told and cajoled to follow required corporate practices.

I know technology. My house has Wi-Fi and broadband. We have cable and Roku. We have smartphones and Facebook accounts and then there is Flickr and blogging. We're solidly in the technical age.

But we LIVE in New Orleans, in a city that has always been so far behind it's ahead. We, New Orleanians, relish the simple pleasures: A good cup of coffee or a Sazerac on our patios and porches. The sounds of the calliope or the whistles of trains. We compare the song cycle offerings of our neighborhood mockingbirds. (Ours does Blue Jays, Cardinals, Thrushes, 1 house alarm and 3 different car alarms and the beep-beep associated with locking and unlocking cars and every once in a while lets loose with a unique only in NorthWest Carrollton repartee. But I digress.) We talk about what's growing in our gardens and share plants and seeds and the bounty. We wander to the Art Market and Hollygrove Market & Farm for local offerings of Art and Food. We have a bowling alley that offers live music for crying out loud.

I know how to get to news using technology. But as a New Orleanian I don't want that to be the primary way I get my daily news. At the end of a work day I want to settle into the my patio or couch with a Sazerac or a glass of ice tea and flip the tangible, not virtual, pages of my daily city newspaper. I want to take a look at the silly horoscope and see how many stars the day I just lived had and reconcile that with what actually happened. If it's Friday I want to see what the Lagniappe says is happening in town so I can plan just how ambitious I'll be in taking part in the many festivities or where I can go to avoid them. Or on a weekend I want to spread the paper on the dining room table and wander from the kitchen with a cup of coffee and imbibe slowly but steadily though all the sections. I may do left over dishes in between a section or start a load of laundry or decide to water plants on the patio. But what is lovely and unique about this newsprint newspaper experience is that I while I can take my time and wander from thing to thing, I know when I'm done with all the sections so I feel sated and complete.

With a 75% penetration rate (am I the only one who thinks that's a awful way to talk about the people who pay for the privilege to read the paper?) I'm obviously not alone.

This forced move to digital is not the reason why the TP has so many (compared to other markets) faithful subscribers. What we are paying for is the simple pleasure of unplugging to get our news, to take it slow, to be contemplative, to see a well written story by someone who lives in and knows our city that we might not see or even want to experience if we were to limit ourselves to what we know and like online.

This forced move is all about profits for out of town owners who are greedy and out of touch with the people they serve and on whom their longer term success is dependent. New Orleans knows something about how to be unique and successful. It seems this is something that the Newhouse folks seem to be completely unable to grasp. So instead they are leaping over the digital cliff, leaving behind the town and the advertisers that are willing ready and able to continue to pay the bill for the simple pleasure of reading news in newsprint form.

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