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.

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.

9/29 “Black, White & Read All Over” main event to go on as scheduled, but patron party cancelled due to Isaac-caused delays

Because of unavoidable delays and hiccups Hurricane Isaac caused in planning and preparations for the Sept. 29 dashTHIRTYdash fundraising event, we have cancelled the pre-event patron party.

Rio Mar Seafood, which was going to host the patron party, will now instead join Galatoire’s, Ralph’s on the Park, a Mano, Cafe Atchafalaya, Liberty’s Kitchen and Whole Foods Market Arabella Station in providing food at the main event at The Howlin’ Wolf.

$30 General Admission tickets are available online by clicking here, or at the door the night of the event.

Any Times-Picayune employee or contractor who’s losing his or her job is invited to attend for free, along with a significant other. Please email Rebecca Theim at rebecca at rebeccatheim dot com for those complimentary ticket(s).

Guests are still invited to support the event and the cause at the patron levels below and will be publicly thanked at the main event and enjoy an open bar there. Patron tickets are available for online purchase by clicking here.

Pulitzer Prize (two each won by The Times-Picayune in 1997 and 2006) – $1,000/couple
Selden Ring Award (won by The Times Picayune in 1995) – $500/couple
George Polk Award (won by The Times-Picayune in 2005) – $250/couple
$500 and $1,000 levels include Times-Picayune-themed gifts

Thanks to the businesses that have supported us

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been nine weeks since the boom was lowered at The Times-Picayune and about six weeks since the launch of dashTHIRTYdash. A few people have asked for a complete list of the businesses that have lent their support to the fund thus far, so please find that list below, in alphabetical order. To all 18 of you to-date: thanks so much for your support – it means a great deal to many of the hundreds of employees, freelancers and contractors who are losing their jobs or significant portions of their income because of the changes coming to the newspaper:

The Avenue Pub, 1732 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans  
The Brylski Company, 3418 Coliseum St,, New Orleans  
Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, 900 Camp St.  
T-P alumnus Chuck Cook, now news content advisor for student media at The University of Southern Mississippi  
Crescent Crown Distributing  
Euclid Records, 3401 Chartres St.  
Gambit
Howlin’ Wolf New Orleans, 907 Peters St.  
LaPetite Grocery Restaurant and Bar, 4238 Magazine St., New Orleans  
Mia’s Balcony, 1622 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans
Mignon Faget, 3801 Magazine St., New Orleans; Canal Place, First Level, New Orleans; Lakeside Shopping Center, Metairie  
NOLA Brewing Co.  
N’Tini’s Steaks and Martinis, 2891 Highway 190, Mandeville  
Plum, 5430 Magazine St., New Orleans  
Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group (Red Fish Grill, Jazz Kitchen®, Ralph’s on the Park, café b, café NOMA and Heritage Grill)  
Rio Mar Seafood, 800 South Peters St., New Orleans  
RockNBowl, 3000 S. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans
Slim Goodies Diner, 3322 Magazine St., New Orleans  
Wohl & Co. (Kit Wohl)