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."

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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