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.

CJR’s highly critical “Battle of New Orleans” report about The Times-Picayune is live

The anticipated critical evaluation of The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com since last fall’s dramatic “digital first” restructuring is live on the Columbia Journalism Review‘s website. And NOLA Media Group Vice President of Content Jim Amoss is not happy about it.

Chittum’s lengthy piece talks unflatteringly about last summer’s “Rapture,” during which several top editors disappeared from the newsroom to surreptitiously plan the coming changes, swearing underlings of co-Managing Editor Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea to secrecy because their bosses would be purged along with 199 colleagues. He describes parent company Advance Publications’ “Michigan Model,” the seeming dry run at their eight Great Lakes State newspapers. He chronicles the pain of The Purge, June, 12, 2012, when employees found out they were losing their jobs in the most humiliating of circumstances, and the push-back editors received from some reporters the organizations sought to retain.

But Chittum spends the bulk of his report exploring the metrics and “strange finances of the move, which help explain what to many appears inexplicable, from either a journalistic or a business point of view.”

Read the report here. But also peruse the reader comments, in which Amoss takes Chittum to task, first for not accepting NOLA.com’s invitation to visit its new offices, which it moved into atop the Canal Place high-rise in January. Amoss then went on:

As reporters we choose our subjects, our quotations, the lenses to frame our work. The best put aside conventional wisdoms and derivative points of view. They allow their writing to be shaped by deep reporting and their own fresh responses to what they find. Mr. Chittum’s backward-looking and narrow take falls short of doing that. American newspaper journalism has been beset by bloodletting and decline for a decade. Those who find a path forward will do so by being innovative and entrepreneurial in their thinking. We don’t claim to have all the answers to finding a viable future for our industry. But we believe that we’re advancing the essential conversation about what kinds of bold changes will save us.

Chittum’s response to Amoss’ response:

As Jim well knows, I was in New Orleans in early December and asked for interviews then and in the weeks afterward. I didn’t hear back from anyone for about seven weeks, at which point my deadline was nigh. My editors declined to fly me down to New Orleans again just to see the new newsroom.

The report will also appear in the magazine’s March/April print edition.

CJR looks critically at NOLA Media Group’s upbeat numbers

Ryan Chittum, deputy editor of The Audit, the business section of the Columbia Journalism Review, earlier today provided what could be a CRJ_LOGObit of a preview to his upcoming expected hard-hitting assessment of The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com since last fall’s mass layoff and dramatic “digital first” restructuring.

Chittum looks critically at the seemingly cherry-picked newspaper circulation and NOLA.com unique visitor numbers touted by NOLA Media Group VP of Content Jim Amoss in a commentary published in early January on NOLA.com, and by Amoss and President Ricky Mathews at the Key Executives Mega Conference, sponsored earlier this week in New Orleans by The Inland Press Association, the Local Media Association and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. (Amoss’ and Mathews’ presentation was reported on earlier by nonprofit media think tank and continuing education organization Poynter Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism’s BusinessJournalism.org.)

Today’s CJR post is available here. Chittum’s longer and more comprehensive assessment is expected to go live on the magazine’s website next week and be featured in its March/April print edition.

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.

New Orleans’ 2013 Mardi Gras parades take aim at radical changes, layoffs at Times-Picayune

Tonight's Krewe D'Etat takes aim at Advance.net's Chairman Steven Newhouse.

Friday (Feb. 8) night’s Le Krewe D’Etat took aim at Advance.net’s Chairman Steven Newhouse.

UPDATE: Le Krewe D’Etat lined up to parade Friday evening (Feb. 8), AP New Orleans Bureau reporter Michael Kunzelman tweeted the photograph at left. The front of the float, titled “Gone with the Wind,” features an effigy of  the iconic Times-Picayune Tower, located at the building where only a fraction of the newspaper’s employees continue to work.

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Also from Krewe d’Etat’s “Gone With The Wind” float (via Laura Beatty)

Although it’s now been five months since the layoffs and changes at The Times-Picayune, New Orleanians haven’t forgotten, and some are transforming the dismantling of their beloved and previously daily newspaper into satirical centerpieces in this year’s Mardi Gras celebration. Four parading krewes satirized the newspaper’s traumatic decision to end daily circulation Sept. 30, 2012, and lay off hundreds of employees and contractors.

Le Krewe d’Etat got plenty of mileage out of its “Gone With The Wind” float, which was preceded by a sign that said, “I Don’t Know Nuthin’ ‘Bout No Internet” and poked fun at:

  • Steven Newhouse, chairman of Advance.net, the digital arm of Times-Picayune owner Advance Publications.
  • former Publisher Ashton (“Ashley”) Phelps, who unexpectedly announced his retirement two months before the radical changes coming to the newspaper were detailed in a New York Times‘ story.
  • new Publisher Ricky Mathews, who was the subject of a “Ricky, Go Home!” campaign after he assumed his role in New Orleans from Advance Publications’ Mobile Press-Register.
  • Times-Picayune food writer Brett Anderson, who was told he could either accept his prestigious Nieman Fellowship last fall or keep his job, but not both. (The newspaper ultimately relented and made good on its previous promise to grant Anderson a leave of absence to complete the fellowship).

    KrewedEtatGoneWithTheWind2013Feb8

    Le Krewe d’Etat’s “Gone With The Wind” float was devoted to satirical skewering of The Times-Picayune and its drastic changes last year.

  • Saints-loving football fans who, thanks to the paper’s new three-days-a-week publishing schedule, would no longer would get a Monday edition of the newspaper filled with Saints coverage. (T-P execs also relented on that point and began producing a post-game Saints tabloid during football season.)
  • Uptown doyennes upset by the lack of “Social Scene” columnist Nell Nolan‘s debutante coverage, which was initially slated to be eliminated. (Again, the newspaper’s management relented and kept Nolan on in a freelance capacity).
2013KreweDuVieuxBlackWhite&DeadAllOver2

Krewe DuVieux’s “Black, White & Dead All Over” float.

Carnival’s first krewe to parade each year is Krewe du Vieux, known for its “eyebrow-raising, low-brow amusement [that] often hits the mark with its rude designs and naughty details,” as Times-Picayune | NOLA.com Arts Writer Doug McCash commented in his review of this year’s parade, which rolled early (Jan. 19) to accommodate Super Bowl XLVII the following weekend. KDV had three floats aimed at the newspaper’s management: “All Out of TP?”, “Times Prickayune Fails to Deliver” and “Black and White and Dead All Over.”

McCash noted that “sexual explicitness is Krewe du View’s stock and trade, with beyond-bawdy float designs and costumes that could very well be banned in less laissez-faire communities.” And photographs of two KDV Times-Picayune-themed floats were labeled “NSFW” (“not suitable for work” viewing)  on social media accounts that dared to distribute them.

The lubricity of one of the float’s names caused the now-daily New Orleans edition of the Advocate, to make a mistake in its coverage of the KDV parade. “One float ann

2013KreweDuVieuxOutOfTP_PGVersion

Krewe du Vieux’s “Fresh Out of TP?” float.

ounces, ‘Tricky Mathews Fails to Deliver,’ a reference to the paper’s new publisher, Ricky Mathews,” the Advocate reported, not realizing that “Tricky” actually began with a “P” in the float’s name. (Note: The coarseness of the float led to the deletion of a photo of it, but you can find it on Twitter by searching for “Krewe du Vieux” and “Ricky Mathews.”) 

A float in the Muses‘ parade Feb. 7, “Canned Goods,” took aim at longtime newspaper Editor Jim Amoss, with “Famous Amoss” and his “Cold Cuts.” (A number of former and current Times-Picayune | NOLA.com employees are members of Muses.)

2013Muses_FamousAmossColdCuts

Muses “Canned Goods” float took aim at T-P Editor Jim “Famous Amoss” and his “Cold Cuts,” a reference to the more than 200 employees and contractors who lost their jobs Sept. 30, 2012 as the newspaper ended daily publication.

McCash’s review of the parade noted that “NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune was the target of one pun-filled float design” without elaborating, and went one to say none of the floats “was especially aesthetically memorable.” However, a number of former Times-Picayune staffers beg to differ.

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Knights of Chaos “Abandoned Ship” float satirized The Times-Picayune’s death as a daily newspaper.

Also on the evening of Feb. 7 was the Knights of Chaos, which skewered the newspaper with its “Abandoned Ship” float.

The colorful, creative and often contemptuous costumes that mark Mardi Gras Day itself are also expected to comment on the newspaper’s unpopular changes, NOLA.com reported Thursday night. Former New Orleanian Chris Johnston plans to costume Tuesday as the death of the daily newspaper, he told reporter Michelle Hunter. He will dress his 16-month-old son, Brooks, as a newspaper delivery boy, while the elder Johnston will wear a skeleton costume and carry a newspaper bag that reads, “Times-Picayune RIP.”

Not something we ever thought we’d see

Photo taken Thursday (Jan. 31, 2013) in New Orleans by state Rep. Neil Abramson, who with his wife, Kim, were leaders in the “Save the (daily) Picayune” efforts and have been supporters of dashTHIRTYdash:

TP&AdvocateBoxThursdayThe Advocate box (right) has issues available of its New Orleans edition, which is published daily. The Times-Picayune box has no papers, not because it’s sold out, but because the paper no longer publishes on Thursdays.

Is 3800 Howard Ave. headed way of HQs at Advance’s Alabama newspapers?

Birmingham News‘ and Mobile Press-Register‘s offices for sale after Alabama Media Group opens “modern, high-tech space easy for the public to access” in Huntsville and Montgomery, and moves much of NOLA Media Group and Syracuse Media Group to new digs

FOR SALE: Downtown newspaper headquarters in two of the Heart of Dixie’s largest cities. One built in 2002, the other in 2006. Instant income at Mobile facility through lease-back agreement of production plant with existing owner.

BhamNewsHQ

Birmingham News’ downtown headquarters is on the market.

Alabama Media Group earlier today announced its next steps in embracing Advance Publications’ new “digital first” playbook. It will move its remaining employees from relatively new downtown offices in the state’s largest and third-largest cities “to space … more suitable for the companies’ digitally-focused operations.”

In a tweet earlier today, Scott Walker, an anchor at New Orleans’ WDSU-TV, asked if The Times-Picayune‘s longtime headquarters at 3800 Howard Ave. will be next up on the auction block. Most NOLA Media Group employees moved to new penthouse offices in Canal Place last week, although some production and editing function remain at the old facility, along with the printing presses and circulation/delivery functions and their employees. No announcements have been made about the large portions of the building that are now empty.ScottWalkerTweet2013Jan22

NOLA Media Group’s new space also belies the “easy for the public to access” mantra adopted by other Advance locations. The offices are on the 31st and 32nd floors of the highrise at the foot of Canal Street at the Mississippi River and adjacent to the French Quarter – which is often one of the most congested and difficult-to-navigate areas in the city. Some employees already have raised concerns about their ability to quickly get to breaking news from the location, especially during high-traffic events such as Carnival and Feb. 3’s Super Bowl, which is being played at the city’s Superdome.

The report on AL.com followed by two days a similar story on Advance’s Syracuse.com offering details of the new space it will occupy along with the city’s newspaper. “Unlike The Post-Standard newsroom, where desk phones ring at cubicles and papers overflow from filing cabinets, the new location is mostly open space with a variety of work stations, but no assigned seats and no place to store documents or display personal effects,” according to a story by reporter Tim Knauss.

Beginning Feb. 3, The Post-Standard and sister paper the Harrisburg, Pa. Patriot News, will follow the lead of The Times-Picayune and Advance’s Alabama and Michigan papers, and reduce home delivery to three days a week. However, diehard print Post-Standard readers are getting a concession not being offered in other markets: it also will be printed the remaining four days a week and be available at newsstands in Syracuse’s Onondaga County.

In December, the company announced that it would move the Huntsville Times – “the birth city of AL.com 15 years ago,” Alabama Media Group President Cindy Martin told WHNT-TV - downtown from its longtime home on the city’s Memorial Parkway main drag. The company also has opened new, modern offices in Montgomery, the state’s capital.

The 110,000-square-foot home of the Birmingham News and its parking lot across the street, will be sold, AL.com reported, while the company will keep the adjacent production facility. In Mobile, the company intends to sell both the office and production plant, but wants to lease back the plant from the new owner.

The story also included another, albeit unrelated, tidbit: circulation of Advance’s Alabama  newspapers has decreased since the Oct.1 advent of thrice-weekly publication, Pam Siddall, president of Advance Central Services Alabama, told AL.com’s statewide industry reporter Dawn Kent. Sidall did not quantify the drop, but said circulation “remains above expectations.” Her statement is in contrast to those made by NOLA Media Group representatives, who have said The Times-Picayune‘s circulation has increased since its switch to three-day-a-week circulation.

Advance may have difficulty finding buyers for such large spaces, according to Kent’s report. Several large buildings are already available in Birmingham, and “we just don’t get the influx of companies that size that are looking in Birmingham,” local real estate agent Dan Lovell commented.

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.

Times-Picayune on “60 Minutes” and Monday morning quarterbacking

The long-awaited “60 Minutes” report about the radical changes at The Times-Picayune finally aired Sunday night. To watch it, please click here.60MinutesMorley

Gambit Editor Kevin Allman provided a quick analysis of the segment last night, and non-profit media organization Poynter this morning also offered a report about it and NOLA Media Group Vice President and Editor Jim AmossSaturday commentary.

“60 Minutes” “Web Extras” also include outtakes of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu reminiscing about his early days as a Times-Picayune newspaper carrier and Amoss dismissing fears that reporters’ future compensation will be based, at least in part, on clicks their reports elicit on NOLA.com as “a somewhat cartoonish view,” although he didn’t deny the concern.

The Huffington Post also weighed in Monday with a report that basically summarized the “60 Minutes” segment and Amoss’ Saturday commentary.