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!

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”

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.”

dashTHIRTYdash to distribute grants to 75 laid-off Times-Picayune staffers with almost 1,568 total years at newspaper

Seventy-five laid-off Times-Picayune employees, who worked for the newspaper for a combined total of almost 1,568 years, will receive direct cash grants from dashTHIRTYdash in the charity’s first of two planned distributions.

dashTHIRTYdash, a non-profit created by newspaper alumni and civic activists to raise money for the hundreds of Times Picayune employees and contractors who lost their jobs Oct. 1, has raised approximately $60,000 to-date. The money came from individual donations, benefits held by New Orleans restaurants and businesses, an online auction that attracted donations from some of the country’s biggest names in news and talk, and a Sept. 29 New Orleans fundraiser underwritten largely by the community.

The layoffs, which the newspaper reported in June reduced its total staff by one-third and its newsroom by almost one-half, came as the 175-year-old Times-Picayune ended daily publication in favor of a thrice-weekly edition and decided to focus on its website. NOLA Media Group, the newspaper’s new parent company, has since hired some new, primarily younger and less-experienced employees.

The grant applicants’ average tenure with the newspaper was 20.6 years.

“It’s clear that members of this group were among the most experienced working at the newspaper,” said dashTHIRTYdash founder and former Times-Picayune reporter Rebecca Theim. “Because of the stage many of these people are in their careers, they may face considerable challenges securing new employment, particularly if they want to remain in New Orleans.”

The odds may be even more formidable if they hope to continue their careers in the newspaper business: in the past five years, U.S. newspapers have eliminated almost 40,000 jobs, or more than 11% of total industry employment, according to Paper Cuts, the recognized industry source on newspaper layoffs and consolidations.

“We realize the assistance dashTHIRTYdash is able to provide each individual is nominal, but we hope it will help make a mortgage or rent payment, go toward equipment or training needed for a new job or business, or help meet some other important need,” Theim added. “More than anything, we want the former employees and contractors to know their work at the daily newspaper was deeply appreciated.”

Of those applying for assistance, 41% came from the newspaper’s pressroom and packaging operations, while 28% came from editorial (including the newsroom, and photography and graphics/art/design staffs). Those departments were the hardest-hit by the layoffs, according to figures in a June 12 Times-Picayune article.

The size of grants each applicant will receive depends on whether he or she was full-time, or a part-time employee or contractor. Eleven were part-time, and 64 worked full-time. More information about how the money is being allocated is available at http://dashthirtydash.org/2012/08/23/formula/.

The fund anticipates making at least one additional disbursement. The deadline for applying to receive money in that second distribution is Dec. 1. Any former employee or contractor who applied for a grant in the first disbursement will be contacted regarding his or her desire to be included in the second. Any laid-off T-P employee or contractor who did not apply for the first distribution may apply for the second distribution by completing the form at http://dashthirtydash.org/dashthirtydash-grant-application/ and submitting it as directed.

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.) More information is at http://www.dashTHIRTYdash.org.

Major Contributors To-Date

Contributions have come from a wide cross-section of the community. The largest contributions, in descending order of size, to-date are:

  • Anonymous gift via the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Inc.
  • Former Times-Picayune Managing Editor Dan Shea, and Stephanie Stokes, the newspaper’s “Inside Out” editor: (including auction proceeds)
  • New Orleans jeweler Mignon Faget, who is donating 10% of the sales of her Times-Picayune-themed pins and double old fashioned glasses
  • Times-Picayune “Social Scene” columnist Nell Nolan, former Times-Picayune political cartoonist Steve Kelley, local actress Ashley Nolan and Mid-City Theatre, which donated proceeds from a September stage production in which the trio starred. The donation was made in memory of communications strategist and civic activist Diana Pinckley, the late wife of longtime Times-Picayune reporter John Pope
  • Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (Red Fish Grill, Jazz Kitchen®, Ralph’s on the Park, café b, café NOMA and Heritage Grill), which donated 100% of the proceeds from its “Save the Picayune” signature cocktails created shortly after the news of the paper’s coming changes broke in late May
  • The Avenue Pub, which donated 100% of its June 28 bar proceeds, and included beer donated by NOLA Brewing Co. and Crescent Crown Distributing
  • Former Times-Picayune Outdoors Editor Bob Marshall, whose Lake Pontchartrain fishing expedition proved so popular in the fund’s online auction that he agreed to provide two additional ones to requesting runner-up bidders
  • The New Orleans law firm of Smith Stagg LLC, which was a sponsor of the Sept. 29 fundraiser
  • LaPetite Grocery Restaurant and Bar, which donated 30% of its sales from a special June 26 benefit dinner
  • Slim Goodies Diner, which donated 20% of its July 1 receipts, and also collected about three dozen direct donations solicited from customers

“We’re deeply grateful to the businesses, organizations and individuals who not only donated to this important cause, but also often provided a way for people in the community to also rally behind those who were losing their jobs,” Theim said.

Sept. 29 Fundraiser Largely Underwritten by Community

The Sept. 29 fundraiser and accompanying auction raised the most money for the charity. It was also billed as a send-off to the daily Times-Picayune and occurred on the newspaper’s final Saturday of daily publication. All laid-off employees and contractors were invited to attend for free. The Howlin’ Wolf donated its Warehouse District facility for the event, which drew more than 300, including Times-Picayune staffers and alumni from seven decades and about 10 U.S. states, spanning from Hawaii to New York.

Restaurants and eateries that donated cuisine to the Sept. 29 fundraiser included: a Mano; Cafe Atchafalaya; Galatoire’s; Ralph’s on the Park; Rio Mar Seafood; Liberty’s Kitchen; Martin Wine Cellar Catering; and Whole Foods Market Arabella Station.

Musicians who organized or donated entertainment included: Jason Patterson, of Snug Harbor and the New Orleans Jazz Celebration; keyboardist and WWOZ host David Torkanowsky; longtime former Radiators guitarist Camile Baudoin; jazz pianist and vocalist Matt Lemmler; the Charmaine Neville Band; swing harmony group The Pfister Sisters; jazz saxophonist and bandleader Martin Krusche; and singer and guitarist John Rankin.

Celebrities who contributed experiences or items for the online auction included: Anderson Cooper; The Ellen Show; TODAY Show; “Meet the Press;” CNN anchor, special correspondent and New Orleans native Soledad O’Brien; “Good Morning America;” ABC-TV and NPR veteran political analyst and New Orleans native Cokie Roberts; and notedauthor, New Orleans native and States-Item alum Walter Isaacson. The auction also featured art work, photography and other items donated or created by Times-Picayune employees and alumni and New Orleanians.

In addition, Rock ‘n’ Bowl donated its facility for a Sept. 28 reunion that attracted almost 200.

Proper, grand, bittersweet send-off to the daily Times-Picayune

What an amazing weekend!

It was a whirlwind and I’ll try to provide a proper post as soon as possible, but for the time being, here are some links:

  • Times-Picayune staffers moving out, on (Baton Rouge Advocate. This story is my favorite so far, and written by Kari Dequine Harden, a laid-off Times-Picayune reporter who’s been hired by the Advocate for its new daily New Orleans edition, which began home delivery today in response to the T-P’s retrenchment.)

 And from earlier:

Thanks again … updates on money raised and photos of the amazing, bittersweet weekend ASAP.

T-P7 online auction features offerings from Anderson Cooper, The Ellen Show, Soledad O’Brien & other notables

UPDATE, 9/20/2012: For logistical reasons and to allow everyone uninterrupted enjoyment of the great food and music we will have at the 9/29 “Black, White & Read All Over” celebration of the daily Times-Picayune, we will end the online auction at 6 PM, Thursday, 9/27. Please place your bids before then!

UPDATE, 9/12/2012, 10 AM PDT: We’ve just confirmed an awesome musical line-up for our Sept. 29 LIVE New Orleans event mentioned below. Please click here for details!

Anderson Cooper, The Ellen Show, Soledad O’Brien and Walter Isaacson – along with dozens of current and former Times-Picayune artists and photographers and New Orleans businesses – are offering one-of-a-kind items and experiences to raise money for the hundreds of Times-Picayune employees and contractors losing their jobs because of the newspaper’s decision to end daily publication Sept. 30.

The “T-P7 Talents & Treasures” auction will be a cornerstone of “Black, White & Read All Over,” the Sept. 29 send-off for the daily newspaper and fundraiser for dashTHIRTYdash, the non-profit created by newspaper alumni, employees and civic activists to raise money for the soon-to-be-laid-off employees and contractors. Anyone with an Internet connection can get a jump on the live event by bidding online at http://benefitevents.com/auctions/dashthirtydash/. Most items and experiences will be auctioned entirely online, but a handful of the highest-profile offerings will be part of a live auction held at the conclusion of the Sept. 29 event. Most have ties to the 175-year-old, Pulitzer Prize-winning daily that is older than Mardi Gras.

Offerings range from VIP tickets to Cooper’s talk show followed by a backstage meet-and-greet with the star – who developed a passionate New Orleans following with his emotional coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for CNN in 2005 – to the circa 1932 Underwood typewriter used by legendary sports writer Pete Finney when he first came to the T-P‘s now-defunct sister newspaper, the States-Item, in 1945. Finney, 84, still reports for the newspaper.

“In most cases, we just had to ask, and usually only once, and people were more than happy to help” dashTHIRTYdash founder Rebecca Theim said about the auction’s offerings. “It really makes you stop and think about the talent that has come out of New Orleans and the Picayune - and the generosity of the city and those who love it.”

Other notable auction items include:

  • VIP passes to a live taping of “Meet the Press” followed by an on-set photo op with moderator David Gregory, donated by NOLA native and MTP executive producer Betsy Fischer Martin.
  • Original cartoons by current T-P political cartoonist Steve Kelley, who is one of the hundreds losing his job, and his two predecessors, Pulitzer Prize-winning Walt Handelsman and Mike Luckovich.
  • Breakfast, coffee or lunch with NOLA native and CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien.
  • Four VIP passes to ABC’sGood Morning America along with complete studio tour and “face time” during the live outdoor weather shot.
  • All expenses-paid Lake Pontchartrain fishing expedition with T-P Pulitzer Prize-winning Outdoors Editor Bob Marshall, who declined an offer to remain with the newspaper following the upcoming changes, and Capt. Dudley Vandenborre.
  • A quilt by the newspaper’s Food Editor Judy Walker, with panels made from scores of Times-Picayune t-shirts created over the years.
  • Custom “Black, White & Red All Over” millinery by eponymous New Orleans apparel designer Yvonne LeFleur.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien

The launch of the auction marks the final stretch in a difficult three months for newspaper employees and contractors who have known since mid-June that their T-P careers – many that have been decades-long – were ending. The event on Sept. 29, the final Saturday of the newspaper’s daily publication, will be held from 6-9 p.m., at popular New Orleans music club The Howlin’ Wolf, at 907 South Peters St. in the city’s Warehouse District. General admission is $30 per person and open to the public (tickets are available at the door or online by clicking here), but free for any T-P writer, editor, artist, designer, press operator, newspaper carrier, truck driver or other employee or contractor losing his or her job.

New Orleans eateries, including Cafe Atchafalaya, Galatoire’s, a Mano, Ralph’s on the Park, Rio Mar Seafood, Liberty’s Kitchen and Whole Foods Market Arabella Station are providing complimentary cuisine in honor of The Times-Picayune staff. The Dave Torkanowsky All-Stars and surprise musical guests are providing music for free.

Event sponsors include: Smith Stag LLC, former T-P managing editor Dan Shea and his wife, current staffer Stephanie Stokes; GNO Inc.Jason Patterson, with Snug Harbor and the New Orleans Jazz Celebration; Bernard ProductionsGambit, New Orleans’ alternative news weekly; The Howlin’ Wolf, which is donating the venue; and the restaurants and musicians listed above.

Auction donations and event sponsorships for the Sept. 29 event are still welcomed. Please contact T-P alumna Rebecca Theim at (702) 622-8154 or rebecca at rebeccatheim dot com.

The public event will be preceded by a private reunion on Sept. 28 for Times-Picayune employees and alumni.

9/28 Times-Picayune reunion and 9/29 dashTHIRTYdash fundraiser set

To commemorate, complain, consecrate, comfort and celebrate old careers at The Times-Picayune and new chapters in the lives of hundreds of staffers, freelancers and contractors, dashTHIRTYdash is hosting a pair of events in New Orleans Sept. 28-29, the final weekend of daily publication of the newspaper.

First up is a reunion for employees, freelancers, contractors and alumni at RockNBowl, 3000 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 861-1700. A $20 per person admission will get attendees food and access to an open bar from 4-7 PM, but guests are welcome to stay later to socialize and take in the band, The Boogie Men. Please RSVP via the private invitation on the “Friends of The Times-Picayune Editorial” Facebook page and then pay your admission at RockNBowl on Sept. 28. (If you are a Times-Picayune employee, freelancer, contractor or alum and not yet a member of the private Facebook page, please message Times-Picayune alum Steve Ritea for membership.)

Then Saturday, Sept. 29, join dashTHIRTYdash for “Black, White & Read All Over,” a benefit and commemoration to the daily Times-Picayune. (Please see 9/29 update by clicking here.) Activities begin at 4:30 PM, with a patron party hosted by Rio Mar Seafood, 800 South Peters St. Patron ticket levels are $250, $500, or $1,000 per couple, with the $500 and $1,000 levels including Times-Picayune-themed premiums.

Beginning at 6 PM, the action moves to The Howlin’ Wolf, 907 South Peters St., for the $30 per person general admission party. (Departing staffers and a significant other are invited to attend for free; please email rebecca at rebeccatheim dot com for more information.)

dashTHIRTYdash is planning “T-P7 Talent & Treasures” live and silent auctions. Please contact Times-Picayune alumna Sheila Grissett, 504-952-1945 or sheilagrissett at gmail dot com regarding auction items you wish to donate.

Money raised will go directly to Times-Picayune employees, freelancers and contractors who lose their jobs or a significant portion of their income as a result of the end of daily publication, minus staff costs for The Howlin’ Wolf event, a nominal per-person fee to cover costs of the Rio Mar event, and a 2% fee being paid to the fund’s 501(c)3 sponsor, the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, which is also providing financial oversight. All contributions will be tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.