The estimable Jason Berry aka Ashe Dambala filmed the Rising Tide conference for the second year in a row. He did double duty as one of my panelists this time around. It was the end of a long day and everyone, myself included, was exhausted. The mood in the room was positively funereal. I looked at the audience and saw a section of former and soon-to-be-former Picayune-ites and decided to play it straight for once. I had a few puns and zingers planned but had to file them away for future use. Tone is everything when you’re performing in public so I had to shackle Shecky.
My goal as moderator was to get NOLA.com’s James O’Byrne on the record with the paper’s position. I’d promised him fair treatment and I believe I kept my word. One of the puns I discarded was a play on the similarity of his last name to the leader of one of my all-time favorite bands. I saved it just for y’all: O’Byrning Down The House. It’s what Advance publication has done to the Times-Picayune, after all.
At the party the night before the conference I had a long chat with former TP photog John McCusker. His take: the Times Picayune as we knew it, is already dead, the formal interment will be Monday, October 1st but the spirit left the body the day of the great bloodbath in the newsroom earlier this summer.
Back to the panel. I made a new friend, laid off Picayune reporter, Katy Reckdahl, who stole the show with her insightful comments and keen analysis. As I said before, I wasn’t really on my game. I even passed up a straight line from my friend Clay who asked the last question of the panel. I usually never pass up straight lines but this time I did. There’s nothing funny about the demise of a local institution and 200 people being fired. Sounds Romneyesque, doesn’t it?
I mentioned the funereal atmosphere. Since it’s New Orleans, you might think that it would be a jazz funeral. Nope. It felt like one of those funerals that has you poleaxed because it was for someone who died way too young. I recall being at the funeral of an elderly in-law who was born cranky and stayed that way until her death in her Nineties. My brother-in-law turned to me and said “that was the period at the end of the sentence.” He was talking about his Grandmother but he was absolutely right.
The death of our daily paper merits stronger punctuation than a period but since I don’t believe in exclamation points, I am somewhat at a loss. Suffice it to say that the death of the Picayune we used to know feels like a crushing blow because of how important the paper and its staff were to all of us after Katrina and the Federal Flood.The reporters and staff at the Times-Pic were like soldiers who became a family because of shared circumstances and, yes, suffering.They became a part of the community’s extended family as well. That’s why this hurts us so much.
My primary lament is not for the *form* of the paper but for the way its institutional memory has been erased by rich cocksuckers from New Jersey and their local henchmen. If I thought they could be shamed, I’d give it a shot but shameless is as shameless does. Uh oh, I sound like Forrest Fucking Gump.The suits have erased the institutional memory of their own news organization by discarding talented people like my friend, Stephanie Grace, whose insightful political columns I already miss.
Okay before I get even more maudlin and morose, it’s time to pour a shot of Jamesons, toast the end of an era and cue up the media panel: