This week Colorlines reported that Advanced Publications cutting daily publication of the New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper down to three days a week and shifting an emphasis to online coverage. This gives New Orleans the dubious distinction of being the largest city without a daily newspaper.
This may sound like nothing more than the inevitable extinction of print media. And perhaps there’s some truth to that. But in New Orleans over 1/4 of the residents do not have Internet access at home, which means they will no longer have readily available reports on current events. And New Orleans is not the only city making such moves. The New York Times reported on similar downsizing initiatives in Alabama where The Birmingham News, The Press-Register of Mobile and The Hunstville Times will also move to a three-day-a-week print schedule.
Imagine the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster with no daily print coverage? In a world of smart phones and tablets that may not seem like a big deal because, online, information is always accessible. That is, if you have access the online world.
Like Louisiana, Alabama has pockets of deep poverty where that kind of access is not a given. And do your grandparents get their news online? Online coverage can be a powerful democratic tool, but in order to keep it democratic we must first make sure there is equal access to it. And how are the libraries doing in your community? For those who do not have internet access at home, public libraries can be a lifeline to the digital world. Yet with libraries the target of slash-and-burn conservative budgets, access to the internet that way isn’t a given.
Denying access to information while simultaneously working to restrict voting rights sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?
Photo from arvindgrover via flickr.