The Times-Picayune, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, announced on Thursday a plan to slash its print publishing schedule to three days a week—effectively leaving New Orleans without a daily newspaper.
As part of the move, the New York Times reports that there will be "massive" layoffs at 175-year-old Times-Picayune as the paper focuses its efforts on NOLA.com. The Newhouse family, which owns Advance Publications, the Times-Picayune's parent company, shuttered the Ann Arbor News in similar fashion in 2009.
The print rollback will begin later this year, when a "new digitally focused company launches this fall with beefed up online coverage":
NOLA Media Group will significantly increase its online news-gathering efforts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspaper will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.
On Wednesday, according to the website Best of New Orleans, the paper's staffers greeted the impending news with collective shock:
Tonight, in private homes, on porches and at least one bar, employees of The Times-Picayune gathered to collectively absorb the shock of a New York Times report that the paper is about to undergo a massive restructuring that will leave New Orleans without a daily published newspaper--just as longtime local publisher Ashton Phelps prepares to leave and be replaced by Ricky Mathews, publisher of the Mobile Press-Register and president of Advance Alabama/Mississippi.
"I had to find this out by Twitter," one staffer told the site. "Do I go in to the office tomorrow? Do I even have a job to go in to tomorrow? I don't know. No one has called me. No one has said anything."
According to a Best of New Orleans source, the editorial staff will be cut by at least a third, "top brass will be fired and reporters who remain aboard will take sharp salary cuts and be expected to start blogging through the day."
Advance also announced Thursday that three other newspapers it owns in Alabama--the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Press-Register of Mobile--will move to a three-day-a-week printing schedule, too.
The Times-Picayune won the 2006 Pultizer Prize for public service reporting for its coverage of Katrina, as staffers rode out the storm in its offices, reporting despite power failures that shut down its printing presses.
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