There's more bad news in store for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which recently announced plans to cut its daily publishing schedule to just three days a week and shift most of its coverage to the Web: Publisher Advance Publications said that 200 employees will lose their jobs at the newspaper, including nearly half of all existing newsroom staffers. Additionally, 400 employees will be laid off at Alabama newspapers The Birmingham News, the Mobile Press-Register and The Huntsville Times.
At one-on-one meetings with managers yesterday, employees were either told that they would be laid off, effective Sept. 30, or were offered a job with one of two new companies: the Nola Media Group, which will oversee news coverage at the revamped Times-Picayune, or Advance Central Services Louisiana, which will publish and distribute the newspaper.
On the Times-Picayune website, editor Jim Amoss posted a video statement explaining the need for layoffs in the face of economic challenges and the necessity of shifting news coverage to a digital platform. “This is a difficult week at our paper—we’ve had to let go of some wonderful employees,” he said, adding that the Nola Media Group also plans to hire new staff to “increase our coverage of areas we know are important to our readers.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Times-Picayune Citizens' Group, a campaign comprised of more than 100 local leaders and big names like NPR’s Cokie Roberts, has been trying to persuade Advance to keep the newspaper’s daily schedule, or to at least publish print or digital supplements in addition to the three weekly papers. In cutting the Times-Picayune's distribution schedule, New Orleans will become the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper.
The Citizens' Group was also reportedly looking into bringing in a national competitor to start another daily newspaper in New Orleans, locally creating its own alternative newspaper, or finding a buyer for the Times-Picayune, although an executive at Advance (which is owned by the Newhouse family) told the WSJ that the company has no plans to sell the property.