dashTHIRTYdash ISO New Fiscal Sponsor

dashTHIRTYdash’s fiscal sponsorship by the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans ended June 28, 2013. Thanks to the CAC for its support in the past year.

Although the fall-off in donations that precipitated this decision is to be expected nearly nine months after Times-Picayune employees were laid off, now is when the need is becoming critical because the severance of former employees who have not yet found a new job is either ending or being exhausted. So, dashTHIRTYdash is in the market for a new 501(c)3 sponsor, but until we can line up another organization, our ability to accept donations – either via checks or credit cards – has been temporarily suspended. (dashTHIRTYdash founder Rebecca Theim still plans to donate half of the post-expense proceeds of her upcoming book about this saga to the fund, so we’re on the hunt for a non-profit willing to handle our finances, check processing and distribution for a reasonable administrative fee.)

Thanks to everyone for your support thus far. Stay tuned and stay strong!

One laid-off Times-Picayune employee’s heart-breaking story

6/28/13: Thanks to all who contributed. We raised $1,075 from 12 individuals in less than 24 hours, almost all of whom are former employees of The Times-Picayune, along with two who continue to work for NOLA Media Group, along with a couple of diehard supporters. CAC already has cut the check to the former employee, and it made it to her in time to pay her mortgage. Thanks again.

6/27/13: A not-so-happy turn in the previously happy postscript: The former Times-Picayune production employee profiled below started the new job in April, which she secured with the help of a former newspaper colleague. However, she was forced to leave it only a couple of weeks later after it aggravated a chronic health condition she has. As of late June 2013, she had not secured another job. She has exhausted her reserves, and has no way to pay her July mortgage payment, due on the 16th. Can you help?

4/9/2013: A happy postscript to this sad story. The former Times-Picayune employee whose sad story is relayed below started a new job Monday, thanks largely to a recommendation from a fellow former T-P employee. She’s thrilled and wanted to thank everyone involved with dashTHIRTYdash.

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I just had the saddest conversation since The Times-Picayune nightmare began. I was speaking with the wife of a married couple who worked together for about 15 years at the newspaper before they both lost their jobs Sept. 30 as part of last fall’s Purge.

After losing his job at the Picayune in September, the husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away six weeks later. The wife has not gotten another job yet because she was caring for him. “All the dreams and things we were having in our minds, we know they will never happen,” she told me about losing their jobs and benefits. “And now, with his passing, all life has changed forever, and it will never be the same.”

If you can help, checks may be sent to the Contemporary Arts Center – with “dash30dash” written in the memo line – c/o Nanette R. Saucier, Director of Accounting & Financial Services, 900 Camp St., New Orleans, LA 70130-3908. If you also add “Packaging” in the memo line, I will personally make sure your donation is sent directly to the widow. If you prefer to pay by credit card (at https://donationpay.org/dashthirtydash) and want the money to go to her, comment on this post or send me an email (at rebecca [at] rebeccatheim dot com) when you put your payment through and I’ll make sure the donation is earmarked specifically for her.

As former employees’ severance runs out and the economy remains troubled, I fear we’ll hear more stories like this one, but this is the saddest one I’ve heard so far.

Thanks.

Former Times-Picayune projects reporter uses acceptance of national award to call attention to newspaper’s changes

An all-expense-paid trip to New York to accept a prestigious national award for a

Cindy Chang addresses the

Cindy Chang addresses the Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards presented Feb. 4 by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice at Columbia University.

yearlong investigation into Louisiana’s prison system should have been a happy occasion for former Times-Picayune special projects reporter Cindy Chang.

Instead, Chang found herself explaining why she and many of the other reporters, photographers, graphic artists and editors who worked on the eight-part series, “Louisiana INCarcerated,” no longer worked at the newspaper:

“This series happened because The Times-Picayune invested resources in it, plain and simple,” Chang told the audience at the Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Awards presented Feb. 4 by John Jay’s Center on Media, Crime and Justice at Columbia University. “I worked on it more or less full time for nearly a year. There were three other bylined reporters, a photographer/videographer, a graphics artist and about a dozen other staffers who contributed to the project.

“A month later, much of that team was laid off, along with nearly half the newsroom staff. One of the writers was laid off. The photographer was laid off. The graphics artist was laid off. The page designer was laid off. The copy editor was laid off. Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea, the two managing editors who were always the driving force behind projects, including this one, were also canned. Here’s your thanks for your great work – a pink slip! The paper/website immediately began hiring young, inexperienced and presumably cheaper replacements.

… “There are still talented people at The Times-Picayune whose instinct is to dig deep. But I fear that will become increasingly difficult as the focus shifts to frenetic blogging, quantity over quality and, eventually, pay-for-clicks.”

Cindy Chang and David Simon at John Jay criminal justice awards.

Cindy Chang and David Simon at John Jay criminal justice awards.

Chang closed her remarks by adding that the series’ team members who kept their jobs or have secured new ones will contribute their portion of the $1,000 prize money to dashTHIRTYdash. Shea has pledged to match that donation.

Chang, who the newspaper sought to retain, but who declined to stay, now covers immigration issues for the Los Angeles Times.

Other John Jay honorees included Mother Jones‘ Shane Bauer, whose article “No Way Out,” examined solitary-confinement practices in California, and writer and TV show producer David Simon, who was awarded the first “Justice Trailblazer” Award for his early crime reporting career at the Baltimore Sun and his subsequent work developing TV series and specials about crime and urban issues, including, “Homicide,” “The Corner,” “The Wire,” “Generation Kill” and “Tremé,” the latter about life in post-Katrina New Orleans. Simon also was an eloquent critic of the newspaper’s decision to end daily publication and slash its staff, writing about it in the Columbia Journalism Review and Gambit.

Last major investigation produced by Times-Picayune before purge wins prestigious national award

Several winners to donate share of prize money to dashTHIRTYdash

Louisiana Incarcerated,” the eight-part expose about the state’s prison system and the LAIncarcerated_LOGOlast major investigative project produced by The Times-Picayune before last year’s mass layoff, has been named the 2012-13 winner of the prestigious John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Prize for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.

Several members of the team that produced the report have indicated they will donate their share of the $1,000 prize money to dashTHIRTYdash. Currently, 59 applicants are awaiting a second distribution the non-profit will make once enough donations are received to sufficiently undeLAIncarcerated_screen_shotrwrite it.

Of the core team that produced the series – reporters Cindy Chang, Jonathan Tilove, John Simerman and Jan Moller, photographer Scott Threlkeld, and graphics artist Ryan Smith – only one remains with the newspaper. Of the larger group of 13 who were significantly involved with the project – Chang, Tilove, Simerman, Moller, Threlkeld, Smith, managing editors Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea, photo editor G. Andrew Boyd, city editor Gordon Russell, political editor Tim Morris, designer George Berke, and copy editor Katherine Hart – seven were laid off (although one was subsequently rehired).

JohnJay_LOGOThe award, sponsored by the country’s preeminent academic institution on criminal justice, honors investigative, feature and enterprise journalism that significantly enhances public understanding of criminal justice issues. It is administered by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay, and judged by a panel of leading journalists and educators.

“Louisiana is the world prison capital,” an introduction to the series begins. “The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s, and 20 times Germany’s. The hidden engine behind the state’s well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash.” The series fueled public support for passage of a state bill making some nonviolent offenders eligible for earlier parole, according to the news release announcing the award.

CindyChang

Former Times-Picayune projects reporter Cindy Chang is now at the L.A. Times

Chang, who now covers immigration for the Los Angeles Times, will travel to New York to accept the award Feb. 4. She’ll likely rub elbows with David Simon, creator of the HBO series “Treme,” about post-Katrina New Orleans. Simons, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, also created HBO’s “The Wire” and is being recognized for his career contribution to criminal justice journalism.

Credit card donations to dashTHIRTYdash may be made securely online at https://donationpay.org/dashthirtydash. Donations by check should be made payable to the organization’s fiscal sponsor, the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans – with “dash30dash” written in the memo line – & mailed to the CAC, c/o Nanette R. Saucier, Director of Accounting & Financial Services, 900 Camp St., New Orleans, LA 70130-3908.

“60 Minutes” to air report about death of the daily Times-Picayune Sunday, Jan. 6

UPDATE, 1/3/2013, 3:33 PM CST: Catch a video preview of the segment, featuring an interview with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, by clicking here.

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The long-awaited “60 Minutes” segment about the death of the daily Times-Picayune will air during the show’s Sunday, Jan. 6 broadcast, the show’s communic60Minutesations director confirmed today.

Jim Romenesko broke the news this morning, noting that correspondent Morley Safer in September interviewed the newspaper’s Editor Jim Amoss and former T-P columnist Lolis Eric Elie, now a writer with the HBO show “Treme.” Also interviewed were New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond, and community philanthropist Anne Milling, the latter who led a high-level citizens’ group that unsuccessfully lobbied Times-Picayune owner Advance Publications to abandon its “sometimes daily” plans.

A blurb about the segment, supplied to dashTHIRTYdash by the show’s Communications Director Kevin Tedesco:

“It’s a sure sign of the digital times when the New Orleans Times-Picayune, published every day for 175 years, goes to a three-day-a-week publishing schedule. It’s a fate many more newspapers face as the Internet becomes the source of almost instantaneous news. Watch Morley Safer’s report on Sunday, Jan. 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT.”

Some supporters of the effort to save the daily newspaper have been concerned that the

"60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer interview New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

“60 Minutes” correspondent Morley Safer (left) interviewed New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in mid-September

“60 Minutes” report would focus too much on the generic “dying newspaper industry” narrative many media outlets have reported, and not enough on the unique characteristics of New Orleans and The Times-Picayune, and the ham-fisted and insensitive way Advance handled the changes. The blurb above seem to suggest those fears aren’t without merit.

“60 Minutes” airs in the New Orleans market on WWL-TV on Sundays at 6 p.m., Gambit‘s Kevin Allman noted in a post today to the alt-weekly’s blog.

dashTHIRTYdash website 2012 review

WordPress pushes out an automated annual report for all of its sites, which this year included dashTHIRTYdash. If you’re interested in seeing which posts generated the most traffic, or what searches or referring sites got people to the site, click the link below.

Here’s an excerpt:

In 2012, there were 41 new posts, not bad for the first year! (It was actually only about five-and-a-half months.) There were 130 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 15 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per week. The busiest day of the year was June 27th with 1,317 views (courtesy of a mention on the popular JimRomenesko.com blog … thanks, Jim!).

The most popular post that day was Successful Fundraiser and Unexpected Visit by the New Publisher.

Click here to see the complete report.

8 things Cleveland can expect from The Plain Dealer’s coming “press-ageddon”

ClevelandSceneImageNOTE: This commentary was also picked up by the Columbia Journalism Review on Dec. 13.

Our take, based on the experience in New Orleans at The Times-Picayune, on what The Plain Dealer of Cleveland is in store for now that it’s in the cross hairs of Advance Publications’ digital transformation, published by the alternative weekly, Cleveland Scene: 8 Things Cleveland Can Expect from The Plain Dealer’s “Press-Ageddon”

Advance Publications’ likely true target at Cleveland Plain Dealer: the union?

NewspaperGuildLOGOYesterday’s tentative agreement between Times-Picayune sister paper the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Local 1 of the Newspaper Guild, which represents the paper’s 168 newsroom employees, didn’t make immediate sense to a non-member observer.

The guild would accept a workforce reduction of 58 in exchange for a guarantee of no further large-scale layoffs through 2019. Without the agreement, The Plain Dealer would purge 80 to 85 employees. Although devastating for anyone who would lose his or her job, the deal, on its face, looked grudgingly good for a union that didn’t seem to have much bargaining power against a national company clearly intent on making the newspaper the next cog in its “digital first” wheel.

Advance’s Real Motivation: Weakening – or Obliterating – the Union?

But in a blog post this morning, Cleveland Magazine‘s Senior Editor Erick Trickey details PD owner Advance Publications’ likely true motivation in the proposed agreement: weakening, if not destroying, the union.

As part of the agreement, “non-union Cleveland.com journalists will be able to write for the Plain Dealer, while Plain Dealer reporters’ work will still go online,” Trickey writes. “It’s a major concession by the newspaper guild, and it’ll weaken the union over time, since new hires will likely be on the online side.”

In other words – and in a departure to what’s been done in the seven other markets that already have gone or are now going through Advance’s “digital-first” change – the company will not “merge the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com into a single “media group,” but instead “will run parallel news operations: a shrinking unionized newsroom and a new, non-union digital news staff,” Trickey reports.

“A big part of that is we’ve given them some language that could, over the years, really diminish our numbers,” guild chairman Harlan Spector told Julie Moos of Poynter.org. “It gives them the ability to put cheap content in the paper.”

The Guild’s Gain: Security and Benefits for Members Who Dodge the Layoff

In exchange, the new contract would allow the guild to protect eplain-dealer-exteriorxisting members: the company would restore the 8% wage cut the journalists took to avoid layoffs in 2009 and add money to the guild’s underfunded pension and health care funds, Trickey reports. The newsroom would be reduced from 168 to 110 after May 1, 2013, and then for the next six years, only five more employees would lose their jobs, with those cuts coming in 2014.

“After the massacre of 2013, we wanted a guarantee for people,” Spector told Trickey.

Advance Long Acknowledged as Anti-Union

The move definitely reflects a long-acknowledged and vociferous anti-union philosophy at Advance. Former Times-Picayune publisher Ashton Phelps, Jr., was known to publicly declare to employees, “We don’t like unions here,” and a primary motivation behind Advance’s once-remarkable and now-discarded job guarantee pledge was assumed to be to keep unions at bay.

The vote by the full union membership at The Plain Dealer will be Tuesday. If the proposed agreement is rejected, in addition to the 80-to-85 job cuts, the company also likely will seek to deduct health care and pension fund contributions out of the employees’ wages rather than the company continuing to cover those costs, which reportedly would cost each employee about $200 a month.

“It’s not much of a choice: a bad option and a worse option,” PD Road Rant columnist John Horton told Trickey. “You see what we have – it’s being dismantled. You’re losing something. You won’t realize it until it’s gone.”

The loss will go beyond Cleveland because the “1″ in “Local 1,” after all, represents the first. Chartered on March 20, 1934, it was “the birthplace of the [Newspaper] Guild,”  its website notes.

Real-life Trolley Problem, Advance Publications-style: Sacrificing some to save others

Note: This post has been corrected, as indicated by underline and strike-through below.

The guild representing newsroom employees of Times-Picayune sister paper, pd_thumbThe Plain Dealer of Cleveland, is living a real-life Trolley Problem, Advance Publications-style.

In a meeting in a cafeteria dining room at the newspaper this afternoon, the bargaining unit of Local 1 of the Newspaper Guild apparently laid out a tough proposal to their members: accept 60 layoffs in exchange for a guarantee of no more large-scale cuts through 2019. Or, fight on, and 80 or more newsroom employees will lose their jobs when the current contract expires Jan. 31, 2013.

With a total of 168 newsroom jobs, the guild must either accept a reduction in newsroom ranks by nearly 36%, or endure a 48% or greater reduction if it fights on past the Jan. 31, 2013 expiration of its current contract, which prohibits layoffs.

“The loss of any of The Plain Dealer‘s journalists – whether it’s one-third or one-half the staff – will be a severe blow to the community,” read a post added late Thursday afternoon to the “Save The Plain Dealer” Facebook page.

Backed organizationally and financially by its local and a grant from the Communications Workers of America, Plain Dealer employees several weeks ago unleashed an advertising and PR campaign aimed at dissuading newspaper owner Advance Publications from making the same draconian changes there that it has at 13 of its 34 newspapers across the country.

“Launche03dealer-blog480d with a full-page ad in the Sunday, Nov. 12 paper and media stories on NPR, WKYC, and other outlets, the committee’s Don Quixote effort has also plastered the city with ads and produced a television commercial,” alternative weekly Cleveland Scene‘s Vince Grzegorek reported in a Dec. 5 cover story  titled “Can The Plain Dealer Be Saved?” “Its Facebook page has over 3,900 likes; the petition at Change.org has over 5,900 signatures. ‘Hot in Cleveland’ star Valerie Bertinelli lent her star power to the cause, and local leaders like Councilman Joe Cimperman have taken up the flag as well. Events have sprung up, like a “Save the Plain Dealer” party at Market Garden Brewery and Distillery this week, all aimed at getting Advance to respond to public pressure.” (Any of this sound familiar?)

But as dashTHIRTYdash founder Rebecca Theim expressed to Grzegorek, “You hope and wish that it’s different in Cleveland, but history has shown that if the Newhouses have made up their mind, that’s what’s going to happen.”

The post on the Save The Plain Dealer Facebook page Thursday asserted that the campaign has minimized the severity of the cuts. “While the forced departure of one-third of our journalists will cause deep, lasting harm to the work of news-gathering, we believe your outpouring of support for the Save The Plain Dealer campaign has helped dissuade the company from making even deeper cuts, and causing even greater community harm, as has happened at the other Advance newspapers,” the post read.

Cuts at Advance Publications Papers = At Least 1,336 Jobs

The Times-Picayune‘s newsroom was cut by 49% effective Oct. 1, although some new employees have been hired since then. (At least 14 employees originally asked to stay when the newspaper announced details about the layoffs in mid-June chose instead to leave, prompting the newspaper to “unfire” about 10 employees it originally had laid off.) About 30% of the newspaper’s total workforce was eliminated, including all of the Marketing Department except for one person, all Special Sections employees, all of the Library staff except for one employee, and the entire Human Resources staff, New Orleans’ alternative weekly Gambit reported.

Advance eliminated the jobs of 550 of its 1,100 employees in Michigan, but has said that more than half of those jobs have been offset by new hires, The Wall Street Journal reported in August.

Another 600 jobs were eliminated Sept. 30 at three Alabama newspapers Advance owns: The Huntsville Times, the Birmingham News and the Press-Register of Mobile, including 55% of the newsroom at the Birmingham paper, Alabama’s largest news organization.

The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y. will shed 115 jobs Jan. 31, out of a total of 386 full-time and 26 part-time employees. The newsroom there will shrink from about 115 to 75, a 40% reduction. At the Patriot News in Harrisburg Pa., 70 of about 285 full-time employees also will be axed Jan. 31, or about 25% of the staff.

Both of those papers will move to a three-day-a-week publishing schedule, like The Times-Picayune and the Alabama papers, Feb. 1.

All told, at least 1,336 jobs have been eliminated at Advance Publication newspapers since this “digital-first” strategy began in 2009 in Michigan Feb. 2 (not including expected Plain Dealer layoffs), according to a compilation of the figures published in news reports about the layoffs. Several of the newspapers, including The Times-Picayune, have hired an undisclosed number of generally younger, less experienced and presumably less expensive employees since then. A June analysis by Poynter news analyst Rick Edmonds showed that the only way The Times-Picayune changes made financial sense was through the purging of experienced, higher-paid employees and replacing them with “young people, more tech-dextrous and a lot cheaper.”

Applications now being accepted for second round of dashTHIRTYdash grants

Laid-off Times-Picayune employees are invited to apply through Dec. 1, 2012 for a second round of grants from dashTHIRTYdash.

Anyone laid-off Times-Picayune employee or contractor who received a grant in the first distribution and would like to receive one in the second distribution does not have to complete the application again, but instead should add his or her name at this link. Anyone whose seeking a grant for the first time may apply by completing the forms at http://dashthirtydash.org/dashthirtydash-grant-application/ and submitting them as directed.

dashTHIRTYdash, a non-profit created by newspaper alumni and civic activists, raised money for the hundreds of Times Picayune employees and contractors who lost their jobs Oct. 1 as the 175-year-old Times-Picayune ended daily publication in favor of a thrice-weekly edition and decided to focus on its website. The layoffs reduced its total staff by one-third and its newsroom by almost one-half, the newspaper reported in June. (NOLA Media Group, the newspaper’s new parent company, has since hired some new, primarily younger and less-experienced employees.)

dashTHIRTYdash distributed its first round of grants earlier this month to 75 former staffers and contractors, who had an average tenure with the newspaper of 20.6 years.

Individuals, companies or organizations are encouraged to continue to donate to dashTHIRTYdash, which will include additional contributions in its second distribution. Donations may be made securely by credit card at https://donationpay.org/dashthirtydash. Alternatively, contributions by check should be made payable to the “Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans” – with “dash30dash” written in the memo line – and mailed to CAC, c/o Glenn W. Gruber, Associate Director/CFO, 900 Camp St., New Orleans, LA 70130-3908. (The CAC is serving as the fund’s fiscal agent, making dashTHIRTYdash contributions tax-deductible.)