Citizens' group forms to save daily Times-Picayune newspaper

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 4, 2012 at 6:13 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 4 at 7:58 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- A who's who of more than 70 New Orleans civic and business leaders, representing the local chambers of commerce, business councils, universities and neighborhood associations, are demanding a dialogue with the owners of the Times-Picayune newspaper.

"The first thing we want to do is have conversations with the new ownership and publishers about our concerns and see how we can support them to get to the right results," said Greater New Orleans Inc., President and CEO Michael Hecht.

Hecht said the right result is maintaining a daily newspaper.

Last month the newspaper's parent company announced the paper would drop down to three days a week to cut costs and to devote more attention to its online publication.

"New Orleans will be hosting the Super Bowl," said Regional Coalition of Business Council Chairman Greg Rusovich. "We'll be hosting the year after that the NBA All-Star Game. It's our 10-year anniversary since Katrina. It's 300-year anniversary in the city. We've got to have a daily newspaper."

Rusovich also said the Times Picayune Citizens' Group is offering to help the paper find new ad revenue or a new owner.

As a last resort, there is talk of an advertising and subscription boycott of the paper.

"If you look at the list that we put forward of community and business leaders and organizations and individuals that have signed on to the list, certainly, they have the capability to take profound action," said Rusovich.

Monday evening, Times-Picayune incoming publisher Ricky Mathews told Eyewitness News, "it is incredible so many people love the newspaper."

Mathews said "he shares the same goal as folks now fighting to save the times picayune."

But, he said "a three-day publishing model puts the paper in the best position to survive and serve the public,” and "maintaining the daily newspaper would mean major cutbacks in the outlying areas and other parts of the print operation."

Mathews also said "the owners are clear -- The Times-Picayune is not for sale."

When asked about a potential boycott by advertisers and subscribers, Mathews said, "We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Many of those on the list of the citizens' group also pulled together last year to keep the Hornets in town by helping to sell more than 10,000 season tickets. They say losing a daily newspaper would be the equivalent of losing a major league sports franchise.

"What's happening now as the word gets out about the Times-Picayune, drastically cutting back, is people are taking this as an indication of our economic fragility, which is in fact exactly the opposite of the case," said Hecht.

The Times-Picayune Citizens' Group says another reason for keeping the daily newspaper in New Orleans is because 40 percent of the people in the region do not own a personal computer or have access to the internet.

See the full list of those in the group here.

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