News Evolution or Revolution?

The Future of Print Journalism in the Digital Age

by Andrea Miller (Volume editor) Amy Reynolds (Volume editor)
©2014 Textbook X, 228 Pages


This book tells the story of modern-day newspapers by exploring the digital transition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a microcosm of the industry. Drawing on the expertise of scholars and professionals across a range of areas, it explores the economic, political, and social context of the move of the largest daily newspaper (to date) from print to the Web. In doing so it paints a complete picture of the current shape of the newspaper industry.
While the circumstances in New Orleans anchor the book, it also includes exploration of other for-profit and nonprofit business models for newspapers; differences in how communities handle news during a crisis; implications of the digital divide; and, how different communities believe a decline in print journalism impacts politics and the functioning of local government.
By researching in real-time the metamorphosis of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the book shows what news organizations, journalists, news consumers, and professionals can learn about the future of the global newspaper industry. Is the newspaper industry in the midst of evolution or are its decisions sparking a revolution?

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance praise
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • News Evolution or Revolution?
  • Overview of Chapters
  • Significance
  • Note
  • References
  • Section I: Newspapers & Society
  • Chapter One: A Symbiotic Relationship: How Changes in Journalism, Technology, and Public Life Impact Each Other
  • Historical Context
  • The News & Information Ecosystem
  • Gatekeeping
  • The Watchdog Function
  • Conclusion—New Orleans
  • References
  • Chapter Two: A History of the New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Origins of the Picayune
  • The Daily-Picayune and the Civil War
  • The Twentieth Century
  • Civil Rights
  • References
  • Chapter Three: The Importance of Local News in Tragedy—The Gulf Coast’s Dual Disasters and Beyond
  • How Digital Changes the Transmission of Crisis Information
  • National Versus Local News in Tragedy
  • Community Changes Journalistic Approaches
  • Importance of Local Press to Community
  • References
  • Section II: The Economics of News
  • Chapter Four: How We Got Here and What it Means for New Orleans News Consumers
  • The Google Effect
  • Everything Declines Except Age of Newspaper Readers
  • So when did the World Turn Upside Down?
  • The Times-Picayune Becomes Less-Than-Daily
  • The Times-Picayune’s Side
  • The Battle for Louisiana
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Economic Models and Business Strategies for the Digital Media Environment
  • News as a Commodity
  • The Economics of News
  • Disruptive Technology
  • Meta-Analysis & Interviews
  • The Nonprofit Model
  • Build Around the Core
  • New Print Products/Digital Add-Ons
  • Native Advertising
  • Paywalls & Rising Prices
  • Digital Advertising
  • New Investments
  • Events
  • Commercial Printing & Partnerships
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Six: An Ecological Perspective on the Evolution of New Orleans’ News Media
  • New Orleans’ News Ecosystem
  • Hurricane Katrina—Birth of the New Orleans Blogosphere
  • Post-Katrina: the Rise of Civic-Oriented Media
  • Muckraking and the Downfall of Mayor Nagin
  • The Rise of Hyperlocal and Social Media
  • 2012 Onward—Competition
  • Symbiosis
  • What’s Next?
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter Seven: Meanwhile, in Alabama: Cuts and Hiring, Consolidation and Expansion
  • Inside Focus with an Outside Owner
  • Changes Come Slowly, then Fast
  • A Pre-Game Fumble
  • Management’s Plan: More Digital, Less Ink, Fewer People
  • No Direct Threats, but Threatening Others
  • Redefining News, and Journalism
  • References
  • Section III: Digital Content & the Fourth Estate
  • Chapter Eight: Is Digital Content Better?
  • Consumer Media Use & Concerns
  • Testing Consumers’ Concerns
  • Print vs. Online
  • The Promise of Digital
  • Immediacy
  • Abundance
  • Interactivity
  • References
  • Chapter Nine: Digital, Social and Mobile: The Multiplatform News Future of New Orleans
  • Digital Trends in Newspapers and the Multiplatform Consumer
  • Newspapers Exacerbating the Digital Divide?
  • Global Effects of Digitization on Newspaper Content
  • The Collapse of Print Advertising and the Rise of the Paywall
  • Research Questions
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion: A New Digital Divide?
  • Branding Issues Create Paywall Resistance
  • References
  • Chapter Ten: Photojournalism in the Digital Age
  • The Return of the “Picture Story”
  • Experiencing Photography in a Digital Space
  • “Frozen Moments” in a Dynamic Environment
  • Re-defining the role of the Photojournalist
  • The Future of Photojournalism in the Digital Age
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Government and the Digital Fourth Estate
  • Governing with the News
  • Syracuse, New York & Louisiana
  • The Deteriorating Government-Press Relationship
  • Social Media
  • Bias and Credibility
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Conclusion
  • Overall Findings
  • Next up: Television?
  • References
  • About the Authors
  • Index

| ix →



Not long after The Times-Picayune announced in May 2012 that it would decrease its print publication to three days a week, we sat around a conference table and talked about the significance of that decision. The former professional journalists inside us had an emotional response to the news. After we digested the potential implications of The Times-Picayune’s announcement, the scholars inside us saw an unusual opportunity. What if we could study this transition in real time? Within weeks, we decided we had enough research ideas to fill a book. Our colleagues who produced this volume with us liked the ideas we pitched to them. They pitched ideas back. Before The Times-Picayune print reduction occurred in October, we had a team of researchers on board and data collection well underway. Our data collection continued well into 2013 to ensure that we could keep up with the story we wanted to tell—how The Times-Picayune represents a microcosm of the news business, and can tell us something important about the future of print journalism. Without our team of scholars this book would not exist. We want to thank Louisiana State University Manship School of Mass Communication colleagues Jinx Coleman Broussard, Jerry Ceppos, Nicole Dahmen, and Lance Porter, and University of Alabama colleague Chris Roberts for their willingness to take on a challenging project with tight deadlines.

We are also indebted to several Manship School graduate students who made strong contributions to multiple chapters—doctoral students Lindsay McCluskey and Young Kim; master’s student Paromita Saha; and, former doctoral student Ben LaPoe who is now an assistant professor at Western Kentucky University.

← ix | x →

We knew from the beginning of this project that we did not want to explore the topic from a distance, but rather from within and around as many newsrooms as we could enter. It was critical for us to gain access to journalists, editors, publishers and photojournalists so our research would have professional validation and relevance. We were overwhelmed with the positive response we received—very few people refused our requests for interviews or site visits. We are grateful to all of the people we interviewed for the book. In the end, our team conducted 95 interviews that took us from the West Coast to the East and in-between.

We owe a special note of gratitude to the leadership at The Times-Picayune. Immediately following the announcement of the print reduction at the paper, media coverage of the decision was decidedly unkind. Amid some harsh and public criticism, Ricky Mathews and Jim Amoss were still willing to spend half a day with us and talk on the record about difficult topics. They didn’t censor us, nor did they try to limit our access to information. It was clear to us that no matter how well this new strategy works, Mathews and Amoss are committed journalists who care deeply about The Times-Picayune and its future.

We are also particularly thankful to the staffs at The Newtown Bee, the Asbury Park Press and The Press of Atlantic City. They welcomed us into their newsrooms and talked with us about their highly emotional experiences at a time when the Sandy Hook shooting and Superstorm Sandy were still fresh and painful memories.

Peter Kovacs and John Georges at The Advocate, Bob Mong, Jim Moroney and David Duitch at The Dallas Morning News, and Evan Smith at the Texas Tribune were also generous with their time. We appreciate their thoughtful interviews, their interest in helping us understand the complexities of the newspaper business today, and their willingness to give us access to their news organizations.

Several people also aided us in this effort by way of transcription, copyediting, reference checking, and more. Our thanks to Farren Davis, Ellada Gamreklidze, Kristen Higdon, Shelby Holloway, Tim Klein, Rachel Reynolds, Kate Royals, and Elle Schmidt. Thanks also to Minjie Li who designed the book’s cover. Additionally, we’d like to thank Mary Savigar at Peter Lang Publishing, and Lee Becker at the University of Georgia for their helpful edits and guidance throughout the writing and publication process.

Finally, we’d like to thank our families for always offering their support and encouragement.

| 1 →




Former Times-Picayune reporter and current WWL-TV investigative reporter David Hammer smiled as we asked him to talk about what makes New Orleans different. “I’m glad you asked me that ‘cause it is one of my favorite topics,” he said (personal communication, February 5, 2013). Hammer didn’t believe he would settle in New Orleans as a working journalist after college, but Hurricane Katrina solidified his love of and dedication to the city. As a seventh generation New Orleanian, he felt a great responsibility to be a conduit of information on the recovery. Unique in the U.S., Hammer said the city has a sense of self that goes beyond a platitude. He calls it a “real identity experience,” an intellectual look at your own identity and the identity of the city itself (personal communication, February 5, 2013). The city perceives itself as socially, culturally, and politically engaged and that, he suggests, has in large part been driven by the city’s historic and award-winning newspaper, The Times-Picayune. “We’re lucky in this way in New Orleans that we have a newspaper that was held in such high regard” (personal communication, February 5, 2013). And when the reduction in print publication of the newspaper happened, “It was like you’re ripping our heart out to do that to us,” he said (personal communication, February 5, 2013).

In May 2012, Advance Publications, Inc., owned by the Newhouse family with a long history in New Orleans, announced the decrease in print publication of The Times-Picayune to three days a week. After a decade of journalism convergence and cutbacks across the U.S., The Times-Picayune became the largest market daily to be targeted by such reductions. Some 84 employees would be laid off. ← 1 | 2 → A city with an unusual attachment to its daily, printed newspaper felt blind-sided. Although the newspaper hired back many newsroom workers and added some younger faces to its staff—and in 2013 resumed printing daily through the addition of its publication TP Street, designed to fill in the publication gaps left by The Times-Picayune—the damage to the newspaper’s brand and credibility remains more than a year and a half later.

This book tells the story of modern-day newspapers by exploring the digital transition of The Times-Picayune as a microcosm of the industry. We explore the economic, political, and social context of the move of the largest market daily newspaper (to date) from print to the Web. While the circumstances in New Orleans anchor the book, through the process of our research we expanded the book’s reach to include exploration of other for-profit and nonprofit business models for newspapers; differences in how communities handle news during a crisis; how Advance’s decision impacted other newspapers it owns; and, how different communities believe a decline in print journalism impacts politics and the functioning of local government.

The Times-Picayune is particularly important to study because it isn’t just any newspaper in any community. The residents of New Orleans feel a personal attachment to The Times-Picayune because of its stability through a long, unstable past—almost the way many would view a loyal friend.

We saw more evidence of this when more than a dozen prominent New Orleanians wrote a letter to 22 members of the Newhouse family, asking them to reconsider their decision or sell the newspaper. After lauding the many good contributions the family and the newspaper made to the community, these leaders wrote, “It is painful to report that right now it is nearly impossible to find a kind word in these parts about your family or your plan to take away our daily newspaper. Our community leaders believe that your decision is undermining the important work we continue to face in rebuilding New Orleans. … If you have ever valued the friendship you have shared with our city and your loyal readers, we ask that you sell The Times-Picayune. Our city wants a daily printed newspaper, needs a daily printed paper and deserves a daily printed paper” (as quoted in Allman, 2012). Authors of the letter included journalist Cokie Roberts, political strategists James Carville and Mary Matalin, musician Wynton Marsalis, retired football player Archie Manning and the presidents of Tulane and Xavier Universities, among others.

The community also reaffirmed the value of a daily printed newspaper in an August 2012 survey of 1,043 New Orleans area residents that we conducted for this book (Margin of error was +/- 3 percent).1 Results showed that 41 percent of respondents think the loss of a daily, printed newspaper will have a major impact on their ability to keep up with local news (PPRL, 2012). Almost a quarter of the respondents said that the loss of the daily printed edition would lead to more government corruption in the city. And, almost half of the respondents ← 2 | 3 → confirmed that they trust The Times-Picayune and other local news outlets more than the national news on important stories—49 percent said that the local news coverage of the 2010 BP oil spill was better and more accurate than the national news (PPRL, 2012).

Because The Times-Picayune is a standard bearer, a newspaper known internationally by its “publish at all costs mindset” during Hurricane Katrina, for which it won numerous national awards including a Pulitzer Prize, particular attention must be paid to its digital transition. Especially in light of the digital divide apparent in the market. According to the non-profit New Orleans publication The Lens—based on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and U.S. Census data:

Orleans Parish has 40 percent to 60 percent broadband subscription rates, which compares poorly with most metropolitan counties nationwide, which average in the 60 percent to 80 percent range. Louisiana is ranked 44 out of 50 states in terms of broadband subscription, with just 51 percent of residents subscribing, according to data compiled by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. The average state has 60 percent broadband subscription (Davis, 2012).

In addition to New Orleans’ status as a less wired city, The Times-Picayune’s digital transition is also hindered by a lack of awareness of the paper’s online site. According to our survey, only one in 10 residents reported reading NOLA.com every day and less than half of the respondents (47 percent) were even aware that NOLA.com is the digital Web version of The Times-Picayune (PPRL, 2012).

The New Orleans media market is unusual in many respects and deserves attention. It is a market that is a mecca for culture, music, and food—but one that is also part of the Louisiana tradition of colorful and corrupt politics. New Orleans is also noteworthy because it has been the unfortunate recipient of multiple, crippling disasters. Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil disaster (2010) cemented the city’s need for a robust local press. A true melting pot of diverse people, the community’s dedication to the city and its institutions is another reason we decided to study the reduction at the newspaper as our focal point. The reaction was unprecedented. What other U.S. city is described with such passion and vervé? What other city reacted to its newspaper’s downsizing with grassroots and intelligentsia protest movements and a jazz funeral? What can we learn about the impact of the decline of newspapers, particularly in a distinct city like New Orleans, that translates to the rest of the world?


X, 228
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2013 (January)
newspaper industry business models local government
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 228 pp.

Biographical notes

Andrea Miller (Volume editor) Amy Reynolds (Volume editor)

Andrea Miller (PhD, University of Missouri-Columbia) is the Huie-Dellmon Professor and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Amy Reynolds (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is the Thomas & Darlene Ryder Distinguished Professor and Director of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. She has written and edited seven books including Terrorism and the Press: An Uneasy Relationship (Peter Lang, 2008).


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