New Orleans Times-Picayune to Reduce Staff and Publish Three Times a Week

This is yet another bit of bad news for the tornado of bad news swirling American newspapers. New Orleans will soon be the largest American city without a daily newspaper since the company will cut part of its staff and go to three days a week.

Three days a week is better than none.

But three days a week doesn’t a daily newspaper make:

Times-Picayune publisher Ashton Phelps Jr. has confirmed that the newspaper will cease daily publication, moving to three days a week in the fall: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. He also confirmed staff cuts, though he didn’t say how large they will be. The New York Times’ David Carr reported Wednesday night that the paper likely would cease daily publication and that the two managing editors would leave.

This would make New Orleans the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. The Times-Picayune, with a circulation of about 155,000 on Sundays and 134,000 weekdays, would be the largest paper in the U.S. to shift to non-daily publication. Its circulation in March 2005, before Hurricane Katrina flooded the city and shrank the city’s population: about 285,000 on Sundays and 257,000 weekdays.

In 2009 Advance Publications, which owns The Times-Picayune, shifted to twice-weekly printing for The Ann Arbor News and started to focus more on its website. It expanded that approach to other newspapers in Michigan last year.

“I think this is a big blow,” said Poynter business analyst Rick Edmonds. “Yes, it’s happened in a few places, but Saginaw and New Orleans are not the same thing. You’re talking about a major-league city.”

Newspapers have truly fallen on hard times and there are an increasingly large number of people who feel many of the currrent survivors will not survive at all. I worked overseas writing for newspapers from India, Bangladesh and Spain in the 70s, then joined the Wichita Eagle which was owned by the now dead Knight-Ridder chain. KRN killed the evening Wichita Beacon when I was there, “merging it” into the Eagle promising to all of us worried employees in the room and to the world that it would produce the best newspaper in the world, by golly, one that would keep the best of both words. Basically: KRN killed the Beacon and (in that case) did it with a minimum of layoffs. This was part of the first stage of decline for American newspapers: many evening papers died because they could not compete with the evening network newscasts. Shaun Mullen who writes for TMV is a former Knight Ridder editor; to many of us, it was the BEST chain around with the most solid newspapers, and the most content-obsessed focus (to extent that it was legend that KRN didn’t care if marriages fell apart but it’s editors would be also married to the newspaper, and guess which marriage came first?). But as time went on that commitment to content excellence waned as the market began to change along with corporation changes at the top.

I left Wichita to join the San Diego Union which was then owned by the Copley Press, which also owned a host of smaller newspapers. I left after about 8 years to do some ventures on my own and predicted the death of the Evening Tribune and some insisted it would “never” happen soon. A year after I left Copley killed the Tribune, “merging it” into the Union but in the end readers really (again) got one newspaper. The merger involved buyouts and layoffs.

And, as the market changed, there were more layoffs. Copley then sold the paper to a private equity firm which fired some 300 people shortly after taking possession. Over the years they laid more and more people off (the whole copy desk, basically…reporters…editors…security guards…some librarians) and sold it to local developer Doug Manchester, who seems gung ho about owning it. But, today, the UT, as it is called has a much smaller staff (of still talented writers and editors) — and is a shadow of what it used to be in terms of its national journalistic aspirations, size and content.

But San Diego still has an enthusiastic DAILY newspaper.

A three day a week solution must be making reporters and editors shuddering.

Because now that is a new option.

And corporations in trouble do tend to look at options.

And choose them.

You can follow more commentary on this story HERE.

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  • http://blogpeoria.com BlogPeoria

    The solution? Citizen journalism. As each one of these corporate behemoths cuts back and lays off workers, a new citizen journalism site should spring forth and give these bastards a run for their money.

  • davidpsummers

    It might be just as well. It is hard to see how papers can compete with TV and the internet in covering the 24 hour news cycle. It is worth stepping back and seeing if they can find a niche in providing news in time scale that allows for more perspective.