The Times-Picayune Is Preparing To Layoff Hundreds Of Employees

The Times-Picayune, the formerly New Orleans based newspaper that is in the process of relocating to Alabama, is preparing for yet another round of layoffs. The paper, which is merging with the Alabama Media Group, will be streamlining its operations.

Here’s Gambit Weekly‘s take on them:

Two days after executives at NOLA Media Group, publisher of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, announcedthe company would be merging with the Alabama Media Group to form a new “Southeast Regional Media Group,” managers at the media company’s offices in One Canal Place met with reporters to announce the newsroom would shrink — again.

“They’re being pretty upfront about the fact there will be layoffs,” said one newsroom staffer. Another joked grimly that it may be “2012 redux” — referring to the firings of some 200 Times-Picayune employees in 2012, a move which riled the city for months and made national news, complete with a report on 60 Minutes.

Director of State and Metro Content Mark Lorando spent part of today and yesterday meeting with small groups within the paper, several people told Gambit. Lorando described layoffs as “deep” to one employee.

The restructuring is scheduled to take place in the latter half of 2015 and be complete by early 2016, said sources with knowledge of the plan.

Unlike the last major round of cuts, the sources said, sports, arts and feature reporters also are at risk in this round of cuts; in 2012, many of the firings came on the news side. What’s unclear is whether duplicate positions in New Orleans and Alabama, like copy editors, would be combined in the new Southeast Regional Media Group. Also unclear when it comes to firings: how much weight will be placed on each writer’s “clicks” — the number of times online readers click on a story — which are closely tracked within NOLA Media Group.

Writers in the newsroom say they fear a further diminution of the newsgathering organization’s traditional beat structure, which resulted in many reporters covering the same topics for years. After the 2012 move, many news beats were de-emphasized, with writers moved around to “plug holes” as necessary — with the exception of a few of the company’s marquee names, like Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental reporter Mark Schleifstein. In a smaller newsroom, sources say, the approach would be less beat reporting than “flooding the zone” — moving a significant number of reporters to cover an important (or click-driving) issue, posting a blitz of many stories on a single topic quickly.

The Times-Picayune is moving away from a traditional journalism model and moving towards the Buzzfeed/Gawker model of writing “click-bait” which is destroying journalism. Why would anyone who is search of in depth reporting click on Nola.com when they can go to The Lens, The New Orleans AdvocateGambit Weekly, or blogs like this one?

The Times-Picayune is in a death spiral. It’s not an issue of print journalism dying, the success of The New Orleans Advocate dispels that. Print journalism will be a factor in the New Orleans media market for a long time to come. The problem at the TP is that its executives are so out of touch with the New Orleans area that it’s not even funny at this point.

Look at the editorial pages for starters. The op-ed sections are populated almost exclusively with leftist drivel. The New Orleans media market is one of the most conservative media markets in the country, but yet there is no local conservative voice.

With the outsourcing of everything from the printing of the paper to now it seems the editing of articles, the TP continues to demonstrate that it is out of touch with the area it serves. It is an Alabama newspaper that is just sold in New Orleans. For an increasingly number of New Orleanians, the only thing the TP is good for is lining the table at a crawfish boil.

The best option for the owners of the Times-Picayune is to sell the newspaper to local ownership who would be interested in reestablishing its ties with the community. This current strategy of detaching itself from the community is simply not working.



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