I am so pleased to have read Ryan Chittum’s article (“The battle of New Orleans,” CJR, March/April). The City of New Orleans has been missing the in-depth journalism that was the hallmark of the former Times-Picayune. We currently have an issue with city infrastructure and the revising of the Sewerage and Water Board. It would have been on the front page of the old T-P. Instead, the citizens of New Orleans get treated like we have no brains and only want to read about sports and entertainment. I found it interesting that Advance produced a print edition of the Times-Picayune on Thanksgiving Thursday as a platform for the Black Friday sales ads. It’s as if New Orleans has returned to the months just after Katrina: receiving our news inconsistently or on an ad-hoc basis. I subscribe to the T-P, the Advocate, The New York Times (all in print), and the Wall Street Journal (digital) as well as New Orleans City Business. And if I feel left out of the news cycle, imagine how someone who does not have Internet access feels.
Ann de Montluzin Farmer
New Orleans, LA
It’s a shame that Ryan Chittum refused our invitation earlier this year to visit our newsroom before writing a piece filled with bad assumptions, inaccuracies, and preconceived notions. If he had, he would have seen firsthand an extraordinarily talented team of journalists working to produce an excellent newspaper and digital report. He would have heard the unmistakable hum of a news operation in top form—reporting, editing, collaborating on a range of work, from brief dispatches to ambitious enterprise pieces. He might have caught the excitement that comes from engaging with your readers and allowing your work to be shaped by their reactions and suggestions. He would have been hard-pressed to ignore the storytelling energy in the room and our use of the many tools to express it.
As reporters, we choose our subjects, our quotations, the lenses to frame our work. The best put aside conventional wisdoms and derivative points of view. They allow their writing to be shaped by deep reporting and their own fresh responses to what they find. Chittum’s backward-looking and narrow take falls short of doing that. American newspaper journalism has been beset by bloodletting and decline for a decade. Those who find a path forward will do so by being innovative and entrepreneurial. . . . We don’t claim to have all the answers . . . but we believe that we’re advancing the essential conversation about what kinds of bold changes will save us. We invite others interested in the fate of our business to come and see us in New Orleans and to explore but one of many possible futures for viable, vigorous journalism in the digital age.
New Orleans, LA
Comment posted on cjr.org
Ryan Chittum responds: As Jim Amoss well knows, I was in New Orleans in early December and asked for interviews then and in the weeks afterward. I didn’t hear back from anyone for about seven weeks, at which point my deadline was nigh. My editors declined to fly me down to New Orleans again just to see the new newsroom.
Notes from our online readers
In late March, CJR science writer Curtis Brainard wrote a piece about the Finkbeiner Test, a checklist of topics that those writing about female scientists should avoid to keep the focus on professional achievements, not gender. The test was named after science writer Ann Finkbeiner, who chose to ignore the issue of gender in a recent profile of a female astronomer.