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Love NOLA: Requiem for a newspaper (redux)

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

Good lord, it's too early for this. I mean, it's not even June and already the heat is making me imagine things. Why, just last Thursday I woke up and could have sworn that I read that, come fall,  the Times-Picayune would only publish on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Yeah, right. The newspaper that has the deepest penetration (I just love writing that phrase in a family paper ... about a family paper!) of any paper in the country was trading a daily paper for a beefed-up Nola.com.

Now, I knew I must be hallucinating.

For starters, have you seen nola.com lately? (If you haven't, grab a pair of shades before opening your browser!) The bright yellow color and the dimwitted design make it look as if it could have won a ribbon.  For honorable mention.  Among a bunch of third graders. Actually, I should not be so unkind to third graders.

Still, I knew I was dreaming. I mean, 36 percent of New Orleans residents don't even have access to the web. In the 9th Ward, less than 20 percent of residents have access; in St. Roch it's 20-40 percent.

Surely, our elected officials, including our most populist of mayors, would not stand for this slight.

Surely, they wouldn't want one-third of all residents, 8 in 10 in some neighborhoods, to not have access to the daily news. I mean, how are these citizens -- these voters -- supposed to hold politicians accountable for promises to cut crime, improve health care and save our schools (by the way, how many school systems do we have around here?  Five?  Ten? A hundred?).  Don't these elected officials want the voters to know the facts?

Oh.  Wait.  Never mind.

But.  But.  But .. I knew the heat was messing with my mind when I thought I read that the announcement of the Times-Picayune's shrinkage was being made by a family named Newhouse who lived in a concrete jungle called New York City ... but owned a paper in a mythical village called New Orleans. What the....?  The news we read in New Orleans is controlled by a bunch of New Yorkers?  Are you kidding me?

Trying to wake up from my nightmare, I ran out into the steamy morning air and down the street, where I found Mr. Okra turning off Ursulines onto North Robertson.

"Oh Mr. Okra," I said in my best Dorothy, "I've had the strangest dream. In it, The Times-Picayune was owned by ... New Yorkers."

Handing me an apple, Mr. Okra said, "Dat ain't no dream, it's the truth. But it ain't as bad as y'think. Those Newhouse people own the paper in Mobile, too. And, you know what they say?  Mobile's the New Orleans of Alabama."

"But, Mr. Okra," I cried. "That's like saying Fargo is the New York City of North Dakota."

Mr. Okra just shook his head, gently pressed the gas, and rambled on, crying "I've got cantaloupe, I've got strawberries.  But I ain't got no paper."

A few minutes later, while sitting on my stoop, head in my hands, feeling worse than I do after an evening of Michelle and Kristen tending bar at Tonique, a curious pair of bicyclists tossed a paper at me as they pedaled by. ("So, that's what Council members Hedge-Morrell and Johnson have been up to," I thought to myself.)

As I opened the paper, my eyes popped and my jaw dropped as I read that the New York Newhouses were only doing to The Times-Picayune what they had done to the Ann Arbor News three years ago (and what they would do to the Mobile, Alabama paper hours later).

Which means that New Orleans is now the Ann Arbor of Louisiana.

I'm not sure what that makes Mobile.

This week's column is dedicated to Calvin Carter, Rafael Quintanilla, Freddie Robinson, as well as 5-year-old Briana Allen, and a young woman and 33-year-old man who all have been murdered in New Orleans since my last column.   

Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.

Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie.  He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.