NABJ conference arrives in N.O. amid tough times for local journalism


Posted on June 20, 2012 at 6:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 21 at 9:04 AM

Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS - As New Orleans hosts the National Association of Black Journalists conference this week, the massive cutbacks at the city's daily newspaper will be a hot topic amongst the visiting journalists.

"It's not the same Times-Picayune. 175 years. It's not the same. It's really sad, really emotional for me," said NABJ President Greg Lee.

Lee, who works for the Boston Globe, was born and raised in New Orleans, and began his career at the Times-Picayune.

Lee knows this city -- and he's skeptical as to whether the newspaper’s heavy shift to digital will work.

"It's really a big loss and this city's not ready for this. It's not that type of town. This is not New York. It's not Chicago,” he said.“This is a laid back city with a lot of tradition and people like to read the Times-Picayune and have a cup of coffee."

The NABJ Conference welcomes many seasoned print journalists -- reporters who say the tough times facing the industry have hit close to home.

USA Today reporter Melanie Eversley has friends who have been hit by layoffs.

"I've watched them really earnestly and energetically try to find new jobs and it's taken them, sometimes, like two years," she said.

Some, like Mira Lowe – who works for CNN Digital -- said media outlets shouldn't let business decisions hurt their primary function.

"I just hope that the companies will keep in mind that it's the audience they're serving and while bottom-line is very important, making sure that the communities get the information they need, is the most important thing," Lowe said.

Members of the NABJ -- whose mission is to promote diversity in newsrooms across the country -- also share concerns about the loss of African-American jobs at the Times-Picayune.

"We have to have an active voice just to really reflect what's going on in America and what's going on in our communities. And it's very vital, a key component, to have a newspaper that reflects that city," Lee said.

The conference includes a job fair for visiting journalists.

The NABJ is allowing laid off Times-Picayune employees to register free of charge.