The decision by the owners of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans to offer a printed newspaper only three days a week, delivering the news online the rest of the time, raises a question particularly relevant to communities of color: What about those who don’t have access to the Internet?
Matt Davis of the Lens, which calls itself the New Orleans area’s first nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest newsroom, reported in March, “Subscribers to high-speed Internet services in New Orleans are generally white and in the higher income brackets, according to a new nationwide study that also found Louisiana lags the rest of the country when it comes to accessing broadband technology.”
He cited a joint investigation by the Lens, the Center for Public Integrity and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University.
Davis noted, “. . . Government officials nationwide have undertaken efforts to remove the financial barriers to broadband access, with the goal of providing a free or low-cost system. Some started then stumbled, some ran into political and philosophical barriers, and some succeeded. Examples of all three situations can be found in Louisiana.”
Census figures for 2010 show Orleans Parish, home base of the Times-Picayune, to be 60.2 percent black, 33.0 percent white, 5.2 percent Latino or Hispanic, 2.9 percent Asian and .3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
That indicates that a move to more digital delivery of news could deepen the so-called “digital divide” — at least in the news industry.
That’s not just a Louisiana problem.
In a January report called, “On the Path to the Digital Beloved Community: A Civil Rights Agenda for the Technological Age,” the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council said, “While over 90% of the country has access to broadband, only 68% of the nation has adopted broadband at home. Adoption rates for Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income households are significantly lower than the nationwide average. Without full digital inclusion, these communities remain uninformed on issues regarding education, employment, health care, and civic engagement.”