Times-Picayune may stop daily publication; faces deep cuts

The New York Times | Gambit
Update: The Times-Picayune has confirmed these reports.

The Times-Picayune in New Orleans may cease daily publication and plans deep staff cuts, reports the Times’ David Carr. Editor Jim Amoss will leave the paper, according to Carr, as will managing editors Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea. The two managing editors were not involved in meetings held this week by incoming publisher Ricky Mathews, who already was set to replace Ashton Phelps Jr. as publisher later this year.

The Times-Picayune “will likely publish two or three times a week rather than daily,” employees of the paper told Carr. The Picayune’s owner, Advance Publications, did something similar with the Ann Arbor News in 2009, cutting staff and focusing its efforts on AnnArbor.com.

Carr described the staff cuts as “large”; Gambit’s Kevin Allman says a source told him via email:

The staff will immediately be whacked by at least a third (from 150 to 100 or fewer reporters). Top brass will be fired and reporters who remain aboard will take sharp salary cuts and be expected to start blogging through the day [for affiliated website NOLA.com].

According to Carr, the Picayune “has avoided some of the deeper cuts in the industry, in part because the newspaper played such a critical role in the coverage of Katrina and its aftermath.” The newspaper published online for three days, and after it resumed the print paper, “its follow-up coverage was praised as being deep and meaningful, especially in a city that was short on good information and rife with rumor and chaos.”

The Times-Picayune’s website, Nola.com, recently rolled out what employees call a “yellow journalism” look, Allman writes. It’s a social-feed looking design that gives great play to the number of comments a story receives; Advance also uses it on Mlive.com and al.com. Wade Kwon rounded up reader reactions to the latter.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds took a look at the retooled news org in Ann Arbor the year after it cut back on print and shifted its focus to AnnArbor.com. An exec said print circulation was OK, Web traffic was excellent, and it cost a lot less than its predecessor:

With the new pattern, Advance saves big money in two ways. Publishing just two days instead of seven cuts way back on paper and distribution costs (printing is done at a sister Advance paper nearby). The reconstituted newsroom with 35 staffers is about half the size of the old, and many of those jobs are lower-paid.

Writing in Columbia Journalism Review, Ryan Chittum says he still marvels about the time when Advance’s newspapers had a no-layoffs policy. The “Newhouse Pledge” was rescinded in 2010.

In 2010 Douglas McCollam looked at the Times-Picayune five years after Katrina and noted that “editorial head count has decreased from about 265 before the storm to between 165-170 today.”

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  • lee polowczuk

    This is an unbelievable story.  Seven short years ago, these people gave their heart and souls following Katrina. One of the saddest days ever in journalism. Maybe someone else will step up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marie-Elliott/100000710260194 Marie Elliott

    Another sad day in journalism.

  • Anonymous

    Because we all know the a town with a history of corruption like NOLA doesn’t really need journalism’s watchful eye.

  • http://wadeonbirmingham.com/ Wade Kwon

    Thanks for the link to my site on the al.com redesign reactions. The readers’ comments echo what Michigan and New Orleans readers said when Advance foisted the new look upon mlive.com and nola.com.

    It’s a shame that Advance would invest so much in a new digital design and yet not find a way to keep the talented journalists and staff of the Times-Picayune publishing 7 days a week. A shame, but not surprising for Advance/Newhouse.