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.

“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 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.

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)  

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.