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The Killing Fields of the New Orleans Times Picayune

Killing-Fields2How quickly it is for the "field of dreams" to become "the killing fields".

That is  what we are witnessing today in the not so big easy.

The same city that witnessed with pride while daily consuming the TP stories written to us like the "return from the dead" after Hurricane Katrina.  In so many ways, it is due to the efforts of young men and women (and of course, some not so young) who gave us hope and inspiration that New Orleans could achieve the glories of our visions and inner aspirations.

  
Thus, I am not sure what has hurt me the most...Voices from the outside such as the pious Franklin Graham who suggested that New Orleans deserved its fate after Hurricane Katrina, Tom Benson threatening to abandoning the city after the storm, Bountygate, or Drew Brees even contemplating the prospects of leaving a city which he helped find its heart.  

Whatever the past wounds, it is hard to utter or write words to explain how deep the sorrow reading the emotional scars due to the demise of the great paper the New Orleans Times Picayune. The suffering hurts to the core.

Admittedly, I am one of the voices who believe the future is digital media and we should focus our undivided attentions to ensuring that our city is competitive in that realm with the likes of San Francisco, Austin and New York.  

 

Yet, after seeing online the remarks of those who got the TP knife, and those who survived but who now speak with disdain of their current employers and those even who are outside voices looking in, it is hard, so very hard, not to share the bleeding witnessing a community once again realing with pain.  

After all, these are people with whom we spent our mornings reading their muses, rants or their daily reports. 

These are everyday folks who happen to have a passion for doing right for the community even when others find their opinions and writings to be wrong.

So, allow me to borrow the words from Campbell Robertson,  published today in the New York Times, followed by online voices of anger, sorrow,  bewilderment and honest compassion:

 

Steven Newhouse, chairman of Advance.net, said that while he expected that people in New Orleans would be upset by the change in publishing frequency, the company is committed to reducing the print publishing schedule and some of the costs that go with that schedule.

“We think the best chance to keep it going as a quality news operation is to enhance the digital product,” he said. And he said that talk of local owners’ buying The Times-Picayune missed something: “We have no intention of selling no matter how much noise there is out there.”

Bill Barrow

Just clipped my Times-Picayune badge to a belt loop. There is no joy in that act today.

Eva BarkoffFriends of The Times-Picayune Editorial Staff
I am very touched that so many of the staff were so surprised that I am one of the ones let go. Means the world to me. I am out with so many great people. Heartbreaking but if I got to be out, I am glad it is with each one of you.
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Sheila StroupFriends of The Times-Picayune Editorial Staff
Yesterday was a gut-wrenchingly sad day in what, for me, has been 24 years of mostly happy days at the TP. I’m glad for those who got offers but also proud to be among the outstanding group of people who are getting severed. What a sea of talent, passion and heart the paper is giving up. In the 80s, I had a job I loved, and when I lost it, I felt devastated. But that turned out to be the best day of my life because it brought me here. I don’t believe so much that “God has a plan,” as I’ve heard and read in the past 24 hours. (More that Advance has a half-assed plan?) I do believe you all will go on to find new and rewarding ways to use your talent and passion and heart. Whenever I feel apprehensive about the future, I think of my favorite Ray Bradbury quote: “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

David Donze

Now that the intentions of the Newhouse corporation are clear, as is their intention not to sell, is it possible that the local investors who might have tried to keep it here can pour their resources into making Gambit a daily, and then let supply and demand take over...given the sentiment of many local advertisers, I think David could take on Goliath here.

Josh Peter

And thanks, Steve Ritea, for creating this forum. I think it's become an indispensable place to share, vent, wail, mourn and laugh. A giant newsroom in which now more than 1,500 of us have been able to gather.

Louann Dorrough ‎Steve Ritea and Rebecca Theim, I'd follow you into battle any day.

2 hours ago · Like

Jeannette Hardy Yes Steve and Becky. We've created a robust newspaper right here!

2 hours ago · Like · 2

Coleman Warner I second the thanks to Ritea, whose N.O. tour left deep impressions. Also to Becky and many others who have had positive impact through this forum.

about an hour ago via  · Like

 

Rebecca Theim Thanks, everyone, for welcoming me back in to the best group of people I've ever worked with. I'm so sorry I couldn't do more. We're assessing whether there's will and critical mass to move to phase II with some ideas, which includes getting the employee assistance fund established, with proper controls and oversight to address some concerns raised earlier by a staffer. Please let me know your thoughts.

 

 

Bruce Nolan

I’ve been oddly privileged today to live through an out-of-body experience, hovering above my own casket, as it were, to hear the most humbling appreciations directed at the corpse. May you all be so blessed.
This afternoon in the newsroom was uniquely wrenching and brutal. The spread of the damage was transparent, trackable. People stood in knots; women hugged themselves defensively; men threw arms over others’ shoulders. There was gallows humor – lots of it – bewilderment, more humor, more bewilderment. People emerged from meetings and drew their fingers across their throats. It was shocking: Him! Her!! What can they be thinking?... The layoff was a scheduled plague loosed on a confined population; it erupted about 9 a.m. and took 50 percent casualties, incrementally and in public, then burned itself out by lunch. Shocked people left to nurse their wounds alone, with family or co-workers.
We drank our lunch, went home to examine our severance or new job-offer packets.
Mine is severance.
Tomorrow we’ll be back at work to play out the last act of several months duration, me included. They will be my last weeks in 41 years. I came to this place a bachelor; I leave a grandfather. (And I swear, in that period the escalator has NOT worked for any five consecutive days.)
I’ve said it before: no condolences for me; I’ve had a great run. I didn’t want it to end this way, but who am I to carp in the face of such great blessings in family and fortune and, until now, work.
I do have issues – seething issues – with the management of this new enterprise and its shocking disrespect for everything on which it depends for success. The new Times-Picayune has given the back of its hand to all of its employees and all of its customers – other than that, things are, you know, swell.
To all my friends who checked in today with words and consolations to make a statue blush, I am wordless with appreciation. You are all balm for the soul and healing for what ought to be a great wound.
God bless all of you. Let’s keep in touch.
And, hey, let’s watch each others’ backs, right?

Stephanie Stokes

The depth of the writing talent being lost at the T-P is clear from these amazing FB posts. I wish this page could also capture the talent of everyone being lost on Dan's staff, the visual and presentation side of the equation. In News Art, Beth, Tony and Kenny would delight me week in and week out with their elegant layouts and clever, funny and touching illustrations. Ryan and Emmett in Graphics produced endless locator maps (and, before that, parade route maps) for me on top of their terrific creative stuff for the news side. The photographers would routinely blow me away with their ability to make the most humble interior look like it had been touched by an Uptown designer. And the multitalented page designers/copy editors/headline writers on the copy desk, especially my right hand, Stephanie Stroud, are the backbone of the operation. I'm at a loss.

Cheron Brylski says:

"Council Member Jackie Clarkson just issued statement calling for daily paper. First elected official from City Hall to do so."

Anyone heard from Mitch after he announced his meeting with the management of the Times-Picayune? Did he ever meet with staff? Has he said anything? 

From Twitter

shortstack81 terry

 

A Newspaper Continues to Die http://t.co/NQy3F5v4 // the New Orleans Times-Picayune really does not want to exist any more

 

keithsperatp Keith Spera

 

The Times-Picayune tower should be lowered to half-mast today, as a sign of mourning.

 

alltop_journal Alltop Journalism

 

Save The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Fights Back http://t.co/ufLc1OY9

theatlantic The Atlantic

 

Today's layoffs at the Times-Picayune signal the end of daily papers as tribunes of their communities http://t.co/2FMNQYwa


mhosswwl Mike Hoss
Salute to Chicago Tribune who picked up bar tab for Times Picayune employees. Few want to talk about it, but we are all in this together. 


jaychristensen JayChristensen
Colleagues from Chicago Tribune phoned bar where Times-Picayune staffers had gathered and opened a tab for compatriots: http://t.co/bSPxw27K

http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/thesidney/backstory/times-picayune-team-wins-june-sidney-portrait-louisiana%E2%80%99s-profit-driven-prison-s

This is actually a story about an award given to some of the reporters this month. It might be interesting to see if they kept their jobs

 

 

Today's layoffs at the Times-Picayune signal the end of daily papers as tribunes of their communities http://t.co/2FMNQYwa


http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/thesidney/backstory/times-picayune-team-wins-june-sidney-portrait-louisiana%E2%80%99s-profit-driven-prison-s


"Council Member Jackie Clarkson just issued statement calling for daily paper. First elected official from City Hall to do so."

Anyone heard from Mitch after he announced his meeting with the management of the Times-Picayune? Did he ever meet with staff? Has he said anything? 

From Twitter

shortstack81 terry

 

A Newspaper Continues to Die http://t.co/NQy3F5v4 // the New Orleans Times-Picayune really does not want to exist any more

 

keithsperatp Keith Spera

 

The Times-Picayune tower should be lowered to half-mast today, as a sign of mourning.

 

alltop_journal Alltop Journalism

 

Save The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Fights Back http://t.co/ufLc1OY9

 

rsmithtp Ryan Smith

 

I've been severed from The Times-Picayune. Anyone looking for a Pulitzer Prize-nominated infographic artist?

 

danbarrynyt Dan Barry

 

I cherish my Katrina-era Times-Picayune shirt: We Publish Come Hell and High Water. Now a third laid off; a damn crime

 


triptp Mike Triplett

 

Just want to clarify that Peter Finney isn't going anywhere. He'll still be writing for Times-Picayune and http://t.co/QDGbg2SU ...

 

yahooforde Pat Forde

 

Want to know why newspapers are dying? Because the especially stupid ones, like the Times-Picayune, lay off talents like @BrettAndersonTP

 

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Two decades of memories are stowed away in a series of one line headlines: Oceans of Trouble, Homewreckers, LSU No. 1, Darkest Day, Catastrophic, Amen, The 44th President, Our Times, Louisiana Incarcerated. These few words sum up the extraordinary adventure that has been our life at The Times-Picayune. 
We are as a star that burned brightest before it burned out. For 175 years the Picayune was at the center of what it means to be New Orleans. And the passing of the paper as we knew it leaves an aching void in all our hearts.
I am so proud of you all. We have been annealed in the water and fire of Katrina, molded into a team with confidence and clear-headedness. A small paper that knew how to dream big. A glorious collection of square pegs and round holes who fit magically together.
I’ve been told that Friday is my last day. I am not leaving the paper. The paper, as I knew it and loved it, left me, slipping away before my eyes.
Stephanie and I have spent our entire married life at the paper. Our honeymoon ended the day before we started – late no doubt because this is a damn hard building to find. DJ and Catie took some of their first steps in the newsroom. Their school and scout groups got the VIP tour of the pressroom, and I got to feel I was the cool Dad because I worked at The Picayune.
I am most grateful for the last two years when I finally seemed to tame my demons and have found a peace that was missing from my life. I have worked hard to make amends to anyone I may have hurt, and if that task is still unfinished, know in my heart that I think of you often as I try to live a better life.
7,146 editions have rolled off the presses during my tenure, including a few dozen from Houma and Mobile. Seven books published. And about 28,000 veloxes sold. And not one of them would have happened without my constant companions: George, Doug and Kenny.
Change is inevitable. We have documented it, and there was no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be our turn. For those who wrote, printed and read them, the passing of The Crescent, The Democrat, The Bee, The Item and The States were equally poignant. So in our sorrow, we need to wish the best to our colleagues who will write the next chapters in New Orleans history. In print, and online, as the saying goes. They will do our legacy proud.

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