Last night I just finished a sad, but enjoyable, novel called The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. The book is the complete history of a fictional English language newspaper published in Rome. The story of the paper is told through the voices of its journalists -- a sad, neurotic lot of people drawn to a dying profession. Each person has a distinctive voice and an engaging story to tell. The book ends as you might expect in these last days of print newspapers. I am a former newspaper reporter and have taught college journalism. I care about the future of print journalism and I went to bed very sad last night over the demise of a fictional newspaper.
This morning I woke up to read in the New York Times about the layoffs at my beloved Times Picayune in New Orleans. Just a few weeks ago, the Newhouse-owned paper announced that it would move to a three days a week publication. It also announced a similar plan for its papers in Birmingham, Mobile, and Huntsville – all papers I have read throughout my life. Newhouse, now Advance.net, said they are focusing on “enhancing the digital product.” Sickening.
About half of the newsroom of the Times Picayune was laid off yesterday, including some very well known and award-winning columnists and reporters. The New York Times reported that by midday yesterday the newsroom was “almost as empty as the bottle of booze that someone had brought in.” It sounds just like the ending of The Imperfectionists. Sometimes the truth is sadder than fiction.