Layoffs, changes in motion at Times-Picayune

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 12, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 12 at 5:41 PM

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

Tears flowed on the steps of the Times-Picayune office building on Howard Avenue as employees learned their fate.

Tuesday, the New Orleans newspaper notified 200 staffers, including about half of the newsroom employees, they are being let go as of September 30.

"I'm still pretty numb about it," said reporter Katy Reckdahl, one of those offered a severance package. "I worked with a really good crew of people and I will miss having one on each elbow as we do this work and I think they've torn apart an institution."

Her colleague, Danny Monteverde also received bad news.

He said, "A lot of people were just happy to know what the next step was in life. You have a lot of people with you know families and mortgages, so it was a stressful few weeks for them."

Last month, the T-P announced it would be dropping delivery of the paper to three days a week, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and put more of its resources into its on-line edition.

"Our readers and readers and users of nola.com should know that we are deeply committed to continuing the kind of journalism we're know for, that our readers expect from us, the investigative journalism, the enterprise journalism that have made this a great newspaper," said T-P editor-in-chief Jim Amoss.

New Orleans author Jason Berry wrote an article for The Nation magazine explaining why the T-P's model is a bad bet.

"It's like a leverage buyout," said Berry. "They are going in. They're eating the assets. They're firing the reporters. They are dumbing down the journalistic product and the gamble is that they believe advertisers will stay with them."

Amoss says readers need to give the new T-P a chance.

"Our goal is not just to preserve the Times Picayune and the news report of the Times Picayune, but grow it and to be successful in both entering more forcefully into the digital age, but also preserving the print product on the three days a week when we'll have substantial newspapers."

Berry says the paper underestimated the push back from readers and advertisers.

"What's so striking about this decision is that it did not involve advertisers and community leaders to try and create a new better model," said Berry. "They simply went in with a cleaver and they're leaving blood on the floor now."

"I think readers and advertisers both need to see what we're going to be able to deliver, both in print and online when we launch in the fall and I think they will all be very pleasantly surprised," said Amoss. "It's hard to envision that when you haven't reached the point yet."

In the meantime, the T-P's award-winning journalists have an uncertain future in an industry that is rapidly evolving in New Orleans and across the country.

"We just have to figure out what to do next," said Reckdahl.

"We can't really control what happens with us or what happens with the newspaper, but we can control what we do and I think for the next two or three months, we're going to just keep doing good work and looking out for each other," said Monteverde.

The proposed changes at the paper have been met with a mix of fear, sadness and skepticism by subscribers and advertisers.    

There is even talk of an all out boycott of the paper if the changes are made and the daily newspaper goes away.
 

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