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Pickin' Away the Picayune
Dear Dead Huey P. Long, What do you make of all this fuss about the Times-Picayune publishing three days a week and focusing more on their website? Given your history with the New Orleans paper, I reckon you’re glad to see it go, right? It’s not like we’re losing a particularly good paper. Unsubscribed in Eunice
Now, look. I never did give a good gotdamn about the Times-Picayune. Hell, it’s no secret that me and Esmond “Shinola” Phelps had our fair share of tangles. That sumbitch was deep in the pockets of big railroads and New York bankers, so when I started talkin' bout sharing the wealth, Phelps started talkin' impeachment. Nice try, you rascal. The Picayune stuck to me like a fat tick on a lazy dog and I tried to stick it right back, passing a state tax on newspapers that Phelps whined about all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Well, you can’t win ‘em all.
Believe you me, there was a time I woulda liked to see some carnage in that newsroom, but hearing talk about the Times-Picayune being scaled down to three papers a week really stirs up the guts of ol’ Dead Huey P. Long. On one hand, Phelps can suck it. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine New Orleans without a paper of record, even one as despicable as the Picayune.
Let me ask you this: If the Times-Picayune ain’t around to print half-truths and whole lies, and if opponents of the Picayune lose a rival to rail against, then who decides exactly what’s worth talking about in this town?
By 1930 I got so tired of arguing with the local rags that I started my own damn paper, called it Louisiana Progress. If Phelps and the rest of those sumbitches insisted on dragging me through the mud, then I figured the least I could do is sling a little back at ‘em. The Progress was admittedly a low-budget affair, funded through generous contributions to my deduct box and by a few advertisers who valued their business with the state, but it got the job done. Sometimes we published monthly, sometimes weekly, sometimes more, depending how soon the next election was coming up, if you catch my drift. Folks today might call Louisiana Progress an “alternative newspaper,” meaning it was an alternative to the party line pitched by the Picayune.
As much as it burns my ass to admit it, I needed the Times-Picayune. Huey P. Long without the Times-Picayune is like LSU without Ole Miss, like Domilise’s without Quizno’s, like New Orleans without Houston. Sometimes you gotta define what you are by defining what you’re not, and that’s hard to do without a good foil.
Now, I know it’s not like Da Paper is disappearing completely. I’m told the Picayune will still print three days a week, and daily news will now be available on the internet. Well, when you spend most of your time in a pine box underneath the NOLA Defender offices, a good wi-fi connection can be hard to come by. If ain’t delivered to my door, I ain’t gonna read it, and I know a lot of old-timers around here feel the same way. Still, I reckon those of us who prefer printed news are a dying (or, in my case, dead) breed. But here’s the real problem with readin’ the paper on the Internet. If I wanna spend my time getting’ all worked up over the latest indignities from the pens of sumbitches like Phelps and his cronies, I can’t find ‘em for a cent. I’m staring at a MyPad lookin’ at cat pictures and some rinky dink clip of the Saints stretchin’ out their calf muscles.
All news may be created equal, but it ain’t all king, and that’s a big damn problem when you wanna find out where the bodies are buried. What you end up with is a bunch of hens and no rooster, and with all that cluckin’ it’s hard to know when news is really worth crowing about. I’ll be the last sonofabitch on Earth to shed a tear for Esmond Phelps, but there ain’t no volume without a paper of record. And there ain't no front page for the Kingfish to dominate, neither.
Dead Huey P. Long
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