About this time in 2011, during one of my rants that the newsroom didn’t have the staff to do all the things that we needed to do, my publisher and I decided to take a different course. Rather than expand the staff — the budget was under too much duress — we agreed that the news staff would focus its efforts on the newspapers of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. They are the biggest circulation days and, more important, they produce the most revenue. From then until I left last December, the journalistic focus was to produce the best newspaper possible on those days. If we had to sacrifice a story or photo on Monday or Tuesday to make Wednesday or Sunday better, so be it. (Monday and Tuesday, in particular, are loss leaders.)
I don’t know if it made any difference in the results — there are too many variables in circulation and advertising to credit or blame one factor — and I didn’t stay long enough to continue watching it. But it did ease some of the stress in the newsroom and, I think, produced strong journalism.
That’s what I think of when I read about New Orleans Times-Picayune’s decision. We didn’t discuss dropping publication of any day. Our financial position wasn’t even close to that. Frankly, I think that helping newspaper readers break the habit of reading a daily paper is unwise. After all, they don’t seem to have any difficulty in doing that themselves.
On Friday, Mark Glaser at MediaShift introduced a poll asking readers how often they want to read your local newspaper in print. (Go vote. Right now, “daily” is ahead.) I’m a daily reader. It’s not that the paper is complete or up-to-date. It isn’t. But I have the newsprint habit. For me, it’s not the same as watching television or cruising the web for news in the morning, both of which I also do. I simply like the experience of turning the pages and reading on paper.
That, and I like to support the efforts of civic journalism. I’m not convinced you can be a fully informed citizen without reading the paper. But that’s just me.