Tell Us What You Want

The ongoing saga of the decimation of the Times-Picayune continues. Like many others in the city, I was glued to the Facebook page “Friends of the Times-Picayune Editorial Staff”. It was really heartbreaking to watch these talented people lose their jobs, and scary to watch the slow death of a city’s journalistic caste.

Like almost everyone else in the city, I feel that the transition of the newspaper to a digital product is a big blow to the community. The paper is set to transition to a three-day-a-week delivery in the fall, which meant a massive layoff (about 200 people) from the paper’s newsroom, advertising, marketing production and distribution staff. So obviously there was a big impact on the paper’s employees, many of whom had been with the company for over 20 years. So sad.

I don’t think this is the end, either, not by a long shot. It’s just the beginning of news delivery transforming itself from paper to the Internet. It’s the nature of the beast: with the Internet, consumers want immediate gratification, immediate news, and the web provides the ability to make that happen.

So I don’t think that the Times-Picayune will be around in three years in its paper format at all. It’ll all be digital at nola.com. Phase out the old, plop in the new.

I am not quite the news junkie that Joseph is (tuned to CNN, MSNBC and network news), although I do admit that I receive news updates via email and on my iPhone. To me, though, news online and delivered via iPhone is shallow and “headline” oriented. There’s no real depth to it.

I could never sit at my computer and read the excellent investigate reportage that I read in the TP’s recent eight-article series about incarceration in Louisiana. But then I’m old-school. I’m more curious about the back story, the ramifications of change, the reasons why things have happened and will happen. I just don’t get that from online news. It’s quick, it’s short, it requires no attention span or real curiosity regarding the who, when, where, what, why.

I’ve always felt that the Internet is having a huge impact on the cultural consciousness because it encourages a short attention span. How can anyone learn to think and examine issues deeply when all they are concerned with is a quickie headline and a burst of news?  Personally, I need to know more. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a little girl. The web has always been fascinating because it provides a whole world of knowledge that can be tapped into and researched. But it’s no substitute for taking the time to read about a subject and to acquire a more in-depth knowledge about a subject.

This is from the perspective of coming from the old world to the new world of the web: I have the background and interest in information depth and the value of research. I didn’t start reading by getting bursts of info from the web or from smartphones.

There are now two generations of young people who have been brought up on the web. I wonder how much research has been conducted on how the Internet has hurt or helped individuals’ psychological development; how the web has changed the actual education and perception of young people (if any readers know of such studies, please comment or shoot me an email; I’m interested).

OffBeat and all other print products are in the same boat, although not in the more precarious one that daily newspapers occupy. We rarely cover news stories in print; most of our content comes from interviews and reviews, and features that are way more in-depth. Our website and the Weekly Beat can provide more current posts on “news.” Our listings are now much more complete online, which makes sense. But OffBeat is still committed to providing its readers with in-depth information. Skimming the surface isn’t our intent. We want our readers to really know and appreciate our music and musicians.

So I’ll ask you: do you want news? Do you want longer or shorter stories? Podcasts? Video on our website? More social media interaction? How do you want our subject mattered delivered to you? Tell us how to be relevant to what you want to read and respond to our mission of promoting, presenting and marketing New Orleans and Louisiana music. We need your input.

  • Hi folks – as one of many oversees readers (Glasgow Scotland) I just can’t afford to maintain postal subs continuously. I’ve subscribed on and off since the mid 90’s, then fallen away, then came back if I was making another trip over.  I’ve just had to let my subs fall off again.

    I, too, much prefer print but it’s not difficult to see that ink on paper is a declining force.

    I like the news and album reviews. Gig reviews are interesting up to a point (from this perspective). Food and eating places have little interest from me.

    Best to y’all in NOLA until I can afford to come and live there!

  • Mzell

    Jan, as is suits very well.  I read the monthly print magazine cover to cover, but also receive your weekly email updates and use the website once or twice a week for the comprehensive listings.  Don’t let the trendy technophiles convince you that it’s an either/or (website or death), because it’s not.

  • Deanslist2

    I have two comments to make here. None of us started out in school reading the New York Times or the Times-Picayune. I recall in my early school years in New York reading about “current events” in Junior Scholastic and other news-related mags aimed at our readership level. These were short writeups, in simple, basic words, just designed to give us the bare-bones knowledge of what was going on in our world. And, in the world of the 1950s and early ’60s, there was plenty of news with a Cold War going on with Russia, a space race and a burgeoning civil rights movement. So, to say to say there is “no real depth” to Internet news is to forget where we came from. And this leads to my second point. Who’s to say that a digital news”paper” can’t cover a story in depth like a newsprint version can? Yes, many online readers of the news DO have short attention spans but possibly just as many do NOT. I would be just as likely to read an eight-part series on a digital reader as I would in a newsprint version. In fact, I might even be MORE inclined to do so. For one thing, I wouldn’t have to be flipping through multiple pages. Digital news wouldn’t be limited by the physical space limitations of a standard- or tabloid-sized page. You can keep scrolling to the end of a story and have the added advantage of being able to click on helpful links, soundbites, video clips and other useful tools. For those who read the ads — the major source of nearly all publications’ revenue — you can click on them and print out coupons. Sure beats having to take out the scissors and cut them out, especially when there’s an ad on the other side of it that you’d be cutting into. The point I’m making is that, for the most part, the up-side to going digital isn’t getting a full and equal hearing. Of course I wasn’t around in the 1450s when Gutenberg perfected the block printing process but I’m sure there were outcries from the scribes who made their livings writing by hand with quill pens. Technology is a blessing but the downside is that it very often inconveniences those most directly affected by it. It’s sad when it hits home with people we know personally and whose skills we’ve learned to rely on. Those who still have productive years left in the workforce will just have to learn new skills and adapt. Those who were ready for retirement anyway can now move on to the next phase of their previously productive lives. There’s an exciting new world out there and I, for one, am struggling to keep up with it but I am determined to learn everything I can about it that will help me in what I do. Life is full of challenges and it has never been otherwise. We should welcome and accept them.

  • Walter Ganz

    Dear Jan, you know I am a longtime reader of the offbeat magazine. I appreciate the new digital opportunities using all kind of social media tech. But for me its not about either/or. I prefer very much to read the print issues, so I hope very much I will get a print issue in the future too. Thanks very much for your effort and as I mentioned earlier too, you are doing a great job. All the best, Walter, Germany

  • Dapperdave

    Keep the wonderful magazine as it is. I am excited every time it arrives. I read virtually nothing online. It has little value, interest to me… I read in bed, in a cafe, in the park. i do not read at my computer…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jan – thanks for asking.  I digress before answering your question – in order to comment on the T-P.  How brutish of the ownership to make such decisions without consulting their most valuable resource – their staff.  No, the reporters are not experienced as managers of media empires but they’re extremely bright, dedicated people.  Would it have been so difficult to call the staff together and say – here are the charts, here’s when we’ll be in trouble, here’s the digital challenge, and here are some of our ideas.  What are yours?  I know it’s not a democracy but I’m not talking about giving the staff a veto – I’m talking about using their experience and wisdom to come up with ways to face the digital future.  Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone is doing some interesting things in that regard.  And as to Jim Amoss talking on the PBS News Hour trying to sound like Steve Jobs with a brave new digital product – he came across as a nervous man who has sold his soul to the devil and the devil was standing just off camera.  More a representative of Charles Foster Kane than Steve Jobs.  But I digress…

    As others have said in this space – keep printing the magazine just as it is.  I read them cover to cover and Mary Ann does too.  And we cannot part with them when we’re done.  I love the Weekly Beat and I’m happy to follow you on any social media but the paper mag is the thing.  It’s a real treasure.

    Best,

    John

  • Doesticks

    I like to take the magazine and read it while eating breakfast. I like the printed listings, the club ads, the reviews. I NEVER read anything in depth on the web.

  • Elliot Halpern

    As some have stated, I think you do a good job of balancing the print with cyber. I also read the print cover to cover. Fight to keep the print and call on us if we can help.

  • Lesmon1

    A recent quote I  read:  ” Getting your news from cable TV is like getting it from the town drunk”.  I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Lesmon1

    A recent quote I  read:  ” Getting your news from cable TV is like getting it from the town drunk”.  I agree wholeheartedly.

  • ron labbe

    new subscriber and i think 90% is OK with the format now. maybe more on tourism and local bands and where they play. love new Orleans, new England boy. fell in love with the city in 1980. french Canadian so i really feel the connection with the music.keep on keeping on. you do have very many fans out here in new England, love you all Ron

  • John and Helen Mowry

    Hi Jan and Joe, In years past the first thing we looked for when coming into town in NO was information on the music and food and secondly info on other attractions.  In 2009 we were fortunate to receive a copy of Offbeat when we checked into the Quarter House.  I knew I wanted this magazine every month so we got our subscription.  This led to us making it to the awards program in 2011.  The point is that none of this would have happened if we were not given the print copy when we arrived in town.  We would not get the in depth info without the sub scription every month.  We will always subscribe as long as there is a magazine.

    Also like Offbeat on line and the weekly updates via email.  In answer to your question: We want it all.  Hope you will be able to carry on as is for many years to come.  Keep up the excellent work.  

  • John and Helen Mowry

    Hi Jan and Joe, In years past the first thing we looked for when coming into town in NO was information on the music and food and secondly info on other attractions.  In 2009 we were fortunate to receive a copy of Offbeat when we checked into the Quarter House.  I knew I wanted this magazine every month so we got our subscription.  This led to us making it to the awards program in 2011.  The point is that none of this would have happened if we were not given the print copy when we arrived in town.  We would not get the in depth info without the sub scription every month.  We will always subscribe as long as there is a magazine.

    Also like Offbeat on line and the weekly updates via email.  In answer to your question: We want it all.  Hope you will be able to carry on as is for many years to come.  Keep up the excellent work.  

  • Pltrhd

    When I was in sixth grade one of our daily class assignments was to read the New York Times and write a story about current events based on its content. The paper was a revelation, opening up a complex world that I had no idea about. And I vividly remember the lessons it taught me. The exercise led me to study the conflict between Greece and Turkey over the island of Cyprus, and the need for mass transit, particularly railroad infrastructure, in order to face the energy problems of the then-distant future. I’m sure my understanding of these issues was simplistic, but the detailed and well written stories made me think about a lot of things that went far from my circle of experience. Today the kids I know are getting their lessons from Jon Stewart, video games, “Adult” Spin and in one unfortunate instance I can think of, Bill O’Riley (“I love that guy, he really tells it like it is.”) I am no luddite but you’re just sticking your head in the sand if you think the demise of the kind of legwork, detailed reporting and accountability that characterizes an honest newsroom is being effectively carried over to internet news coverage.

  • Nhemeter

    I would like for Offbeat to do a story about the New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp for Adults. The Times Picayune has done several stories, with photos, about the camp, and I for one am very sad to see what is happening.  Everyone should be outraged and sign the petitions, write letters etc to see if we can save our treasured paper.  

      Since Offbeat is a music magazine, we would like for you to highlight our impact on our music community, this year we added more musicians to our faculty, impacted the local economy, promoted the music that was born here, gave scholarships to 12 local music students and got picked up by the wire service.  We had 103 musicians come to the city from 28 states as well as Finland, Argentina, UK, Canada, Scotland, Germany and the Netherlands to celebrate the music of our city.  The camp is a good thing for the city and it’s musicians, show us some love.

  • Cleophus

    Ditto — I would add that I would not read OffBeat as much, or in as much detail, if it were digital only (or digital-mostly).  To me, the online content supplements the print content, and I like it that way.

  • Wileywayne

    If newspapers are all going the way of the dinosaur then why is Warren Buffet (one of the smartest and richest investors in the world) buying newspapers by the truck load? What does he know that we don’t?

  • Wileywayne

    If newspapers are all going the way of the dinosaur then why is Warren Buffet (one of the smartest and richest investors in the world) buying newspapers by the truck load? What does he know that we don’t?

  • Love the stories, great social media interaction. Love the hard copy of the magazine, use them as collector items. Not opposed to it if you need to go digital. Appreciate your covering all that is good in music.

  • Clea Simon

    Hi Jan – I’m a longtime print subscriber, but I do love getting the email updates too. I don’t know if you could do it, but in my ideal world, you’d have more and longer articles online (like, maybe the full transcriptions of interviews that run as features in the mag?) and live links to click through, hear music samples, buy records, and the like. That said, I love the mag — don’t change too much, please!

  • bob gottlieb

    i jsut took your survey but it won’t let me send it in because on one question it lists offbeat and offbeat on line and asks what i like most and least – if i check something on offbeat it won’t let me tell what i like least in ob on line – so piss off on surveys until you get them right