When the New Orleans Times-Picayune announced it would cut back its printed editions to three days a week and shift to a digitally centered model based on free content, the response was immediate, loud, and, with few exceptions, hostile.

Some complained the paper and its parent, Advance Publications, was abandoning the large segment of its readership—mostly poorer and less well-educated—that relied on the printed product. Others lamented the staff cuts that accompanied the changes and the ham-fisted manner in which they were carried out. (For all the background, read Ryan Chittum’s deep dive from last spring.) But a unifying concern, underlying all the others, was for the quality of the news itself. The “digital-first” model—dependent on a high volume of new posts to drive ad-generating Internet traffic—would, many believed, result in a shoddier product.

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