Tuesday, June 12, 2012

For employees of the Times-Picayune, 'digital first' means filing for unemployment; Alabama papers to lose 400 positions as Advance implements new publishing strategy

Today was D-Day for employees of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans – the day they found out just how many of them would be retained by one of the two new companies formed by Advance, Nola Media Group or Advance Central Services Louisiana. In the end, 201 employees, or about one third of the total, have been let go.

"Among the more notable names on the list of newsroom employees slated for layoffs are are award-winning restaurant critic Brett Anderson, longtime sports columnist Peter Finney and religion writer Bruce Nolan," wrote Jaquetta White, in the Times-Picayune online post concerning the terminations. (Sadly, the comments section of the story online is filled with trolls and those who enjoy the misery of others.)

The paper used the term "lay offs", though this would be incorrect, these are jobs that will never come back. Of the 173 newsroom spots before the terminations, 84 were eliminated today.

Expect more such news today at Advance Publications as the company rolls out its own version of austerity among its papers in the southeast.

"We regret that we will not be able to offer employment to all of our current staffs in the new companies. We are providing our departing employees with as much advance notice as possible and offering to them a generous severance agreement and outplacement packages," said Pam Siddall, president of Advance Central Services of Alabama, of the two companies Advance has created for its Alabama newspapers where 400 employees are said to be losing their jobs today.

The daily newspapers owned by Advance announced on May 24 that they will cut back on the days in which they will publish their papers, limiting them to Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

As with most 'digital first' strategies announced by old media companies, the real goal here was cost reduction as no new digital initiatives accompanied the announcement of the moves.

Update: Gambit, the New Orleans alt-weekly, late last night posted this story about the layoffs at the Times-Picayune.

Besides the sad retelling of layoff notices, this paragraph stands out:

No one from Advance Publications or Newhouse, the parent companies of The Times-Picayune, was on hand to deliver the news — leaving the job to the paper's editors in brief individual meetings with those whom they supervised. The paper's new publisher, Ricky Mathews, was not seen in the building.