Outcry After NOLA's Daily Paper Cuts Back (With '60 Minutes' Video)
David Carr: Schools aren't great. Public housing doesn't go very well. They have problems with their police. They've always had a really good newspaper.
Morley Safer: If it works, how come it's going under?
David Carr: Delivering a newspaper, like, making it thump on your doorstep, it's a really hard business. It's an expensive business. What the Newhouses did is said, "You know what? This only really works three days a week. So, let's cut to those three days." That's when it pays.
As sad as it is to witness local newspapers die or slowly disappear, technology and the economic facts are inescapable. The lumbering and expensive process of rolls of newsprint being fed into gigantic presses that spew out tons of newspapers which must be loaded on to trucks that drive into the night to ultimately deliver the paper to doorsteps, diners and newsstands. It seems almost quaint when you consider that the same news, only fresher, can be dispatched at the speed of light to millions at a fraction of the cost and yet The Times-Picayune still showed a profit.
David Carr: I think that The Times-Picayune was making money but the trend lines for all of Newhouses' newspapers, including The Times-Picayune, was down eight to 10 percent every single year. So it's sort of an existential threat.
So Steve Newhouse, chairman of the company's digital arm, announced a massive restructuring to build a viable future for the paper. The focus would shift to the paper's 24-hour website. A print edition would be published only Wednesday, Friday and Sunday/ More than 200 people would lose their jobs; press operators, copy editors, photographers and distinguished senior reporters. The changes were called painful but inevitable.
Steve Newhouse declined to be interviewed. He referred us to Jim Amoss, the highly respected long-time editor of the paper.
Morley Safer: Did you agree with the decision to start publishing only three days a week?
Jim Amoss: Well, we'd been grappling, as all metro newspapers in this country have with what's happening to our industry. And that is a steady decline in circulation, a steady decline in print ad revenue. And the solutions there aren't many. One is to act as though nothing were happening and continue business as usual. And to me, that's presiding over a gradual irrelevancy and a gradual death.
Morley Safer: What you're saying is that the patient was dying and the only way to save it was to cut off all four limbs and replace it with an artificial one?
Jim Amoss: The patient, and by that I would say the national patient has been in a lingering illness for a very long time. And some of the doctors are standing by and wringing their hands. And some are walking away and saying, "This is an incurable illness." And others are actually trying operations that have a good chance of succeeding.
The company is hoping that by reducing the number of publishing days at many of its 35 regional newspapers it will drive readers to their websites...