Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
The chairman of the company that owns The Times-Picayune says New Orleanians have “every reason to be upset and angry” at the changes at the daily newspaper, but defended the moves and said he welcomes competition from others looking to offset the controversial moves by Advance Publications.
In an interview with the Poynter Institute, accompanying an op-ed piece, Advance.net chairman Steven Newhouse said he understands the outrage but indicated the company is standing by its decision to cut back to a three day per week publication schedule at the Picayune and several of its other newspapers.
“There’s every reason to be upset and angry,” Newhouse told Andrew Beaujon, media reporter for Poynter.org, the web site of the media think tank and journalism training institute.
In the interview, Newhouse said the T-P changes were painful but inevitable.
“But left unsaid is that we would not be able to produce a seven-day-a-week newspaper” given the current business climate, Newhouse claimed.
“We really feel the most important element for our journalistic future is our quality. Not how many days we publish but how well we cover the community,” Newhouse told Beaujon.
But Newhouse did maintain that the Picayune is turning a profit.
“The Times-Picayune is profitable,” Newhouse told Poynter.org, which said his goal is to “make a transition to a model that has a chance to work and not ride down a model that we’ve been successful at for many, many years but is eroding rapidly.”
“Sure people can criticize and challenge the strategies we’ve chosen, but these were choices we made based on years of effort and thinking and gaining experience and only because we are deeply committed. That’s why we have no intention of selling in New Orleans or anywhere else.”
In response to the push by the Baton Rouge Advocate to start a New Orleans edition, and other non-profit groups announcing plans to start up media outlets, Newhouse said “bring them on.”
“Competition is great. We’re not afraid at all. We’re gonna have a really fantastic website and great print editions, and we’ll let the readers decide,” he told Poynter.
In his op-ed piece, Newhouse admits that the news of the T-P cutbacks came as a shock to many of the paper's employees and also acknowledges the widespread criticism of the company's online product.
"Some of the criticism was well founded. We could have communicated our decisions more openly and sensitively to our employees, our readers and our communities. We understand that our websites need further improvement," he wrote.
Newhouse disputed some reports of the staff reductions at the newspaper, saying that while there were job cuts (including many veteran staffers), the new digitally-focused NOLA Media Group is actually in a hiring mode.
“We think that by deploying those journalists to produce a really incredible website and great print editions three times a week we can really focus on capturing the growth in digital … and at the same time serve our print audience with really great newspapers.”