#FOISummit brief: Not a Picayune Problem

The panel discussion, Not a Picayune Problem, featured panelists Sherry Alexander, Steve Beatty, James O'Byrne, and Tod Smith. Peter Scheer moderated.

Please see speakers' biographies here.

How is the changing news media environment and the gradual reshaping of the newspaper business affecting the use and effectiveness of freedom of information requests and other journalistic efforts on behalf of open and accountable government?

New Orleans provides a microcosm of the nationwide trends taking place at the intersection of changing public media and open records. The panel explored problems unique to New Orleans. Panelists discussed changing news media environment in New Orleans and how it is reshaping the media industry.

The panelists generally agreed that even though media outlets, such as The Times Picayune, have reduced their print versions, the future of the news content is still optimistic as alternative and internet-based organizations have taken up the slack.

Smith offered the sobering fact that with the Times-picayune going to three days a week, New Orleans will be the largest U.S. city without a daily print newspaper. He said digital is the future. With new technology, you can still take the paper on the subway with you (in the form of iPads, laptops, etc…). According to Smith, the real threat to established journalism is the little guy who does a great job of covering hyper-local issues.

But Alexander said that losing a daily paper is bad for democracy. She said studies show that fewer people vote and run for office in cities without dailies.

Please visit our 2013 FOI Summit homepage for more information and coverage. For tweets about the 2013 FOI Summit go to #FOISummit, and follow us @nfoic.