Funny, ironic, and true.
Haves, meet Have-Nots.
by Tracie Powell Published July 5, 2012 4:00 pm Updated July 5, 2012 7:03 pm
Come September when changes at The Times-Picayune take effect, not only will New Orleans become the largest city without a daily newspaper, its residents will likely become some of the most disconnected in the country.
New Orleans lags behind the rest of the U.S. when it comes to broadband Internet service connections, according to an investigative report produced by the nonprofit journalism organization The Lens in conjunction with the Center for Public Integrity and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University. About half of Louisianans subscribe to broadband services while the national average is 60 percent. Those who do subscribe to broadband Internet service tend to be white and in higher income brackets, the report shows.
Only 43 percent of Americans who make less than $25,000 a year have home Internet access, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study. “It’s clear that, in the midst of moving toward digital news, many people still need access to information that doesn’t require a computer,” Jesse Hardman writes in the Columbia Journalism Review.
This is especially true in New Orleans, where half the residents make less than $35,000 a year and The Times-Picayune will emphasize digital products, Hardman states. The concern should not be about a business decision, “but on how the citizens of New Orleans are going to get important information if they are not online,” he writes.
Poorer, more African American areas of New Orleans, such as the Lower 9th Ward, have broadband subscription rates between 0 and 40 percent while those living in more rural parts of the area account for subscription rates between 0 and 20 percent, Matt Davis writes in The Lens.
It’s harder to profit from the investment in broadband infrastructure in rural areas where fewer residents live further apart. Among poorer residents, broadband – and even newspaper subscriptions – tend to be luxuries for job seekers or people who are still trying to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly seven years ago. The Picayune’s decision to print only three days a week means fewer newspapers will get passed around local barber shops, beauty salons, cafes and convenience stores — places where many people who don’t have broadband access at home often go to exchange information about what’s happening in their neighborhoods.
At the same time, private business executives and public officials seem to be in denial. They aren’t planning for a diminished newspaper presence and are holding out hope that a hero will swoop in and buy The Times-Picayune, even though the paper isn’t for sale. They also continue to support policies that favor the telecom industry rather than working to make broadband more affordable.
The other primary sources of information for poorer residents, television and radio, will have to step up their game to fill in the gap once the Picayune ceases daily publication, media observers say.
Why the Digital Divide
New Orleans is one of the most digitally divided cities in the country. The Lens’ report contains Read the rest of this entry »