The Death and Life of the Times-Picayune Newspaper

In this ode to New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper, Chris Rose unearths the implications of moving from print to online publication.

| January/February 2013

  • Newspaper Stand
    Back in 2005, the work of the Times-Picayune was driven by the most elemental of human-survival instincts. It was nothing less than a fight to save the city. And now, no less urgent, the newspaper staff—and the city that stands with them—fight to save the soul of the city.
    Photo By Infrogmation /
  • Breakfast Scene
    One by one, protesters lamented the loss of their morning ritual, that sacrosanct time of awakening and reflection, where reading the paper is every bit as vital as bathing and breakfast. It bordered on self-parody how many mentioned chicory coffee—its taste, smell, and consistency—as a constant companion to the paper.
    Photo By Infrogmation /

  • Newspaper Stand
  • Breakfast Scene

When I was 24 years old and working as a copyboy at the Washington Post, I applied for a “real” journalism job anywhere that would have me. The response I got was from the Times-Picayune newspaper, which offered to fly me down for an interview. All I knew about the newspaper was that it had a ridiculous name. And it was in New Orleans.

The night before the interview, I drank my way across the French Quarter, from the charmingly dilapidated Napoleon House—with its crumbling walls, listless waiters, and low strains of Debussy emanating from a record player behind the bar—to the famed Big Daddy’s on Bourbon Street, where the bare legs of a mannequin swung in and out of a transom window to reel in suckers. I sat at the bar with a B-drinker until 6 a.m.

At dawn I slogged my way back to the hotel through a humidity so thick and viscous it clung to my skin like cobwebs. A ghostly Confederate mist rolled up off the Mississippi; moisture crackled off the unsightly matrix of power lines overhead; the oddly deserted streets smelled of mule shit, sweet olive, and oyster juice that puddled in the cracks of the old brick banquettes—a toxic stew known as Bourbon Street Gravy.

What land is this? I wondered.

I want this job, I thought.

I need this city, I knew.

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