If anyone had begun 2012 predicting the wrenching changes that would occur beginning in the spring at The Times-Picayune, no one, quite simply, would not have believed it. The year is now ending with the newspaper and its painful transformation making many of the region’s 2012 “major news events” lists.
WWL-TV, southern Louisiana’s longtime leading television station and recipient of two of the Picayune‘s early defectors, star investigative reporters David Hammer and Brendan McCarthy, ranked the story as the region’s fourth biggest news event in 2012.
Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative weekly, made The Times-Picayune the area’s fourth most-important news maker because of its decision to end daily publication and the way it bungled just about everything associated with it. “Despite protests and letter-writing campaigns, the T-P‘s fate was sealed and New Orleans became the largest American city without a daily newspaper,” noted Gambit Editor Kevin Allman, who has owned coverage of the painful episode. David Manship, publisher of The Advocate headquartered in Baton Rouge, was named 39th on Gambit‘s Top 50 list for his newspaper’s decision to fill the void created by The T-P by staffing (exclusively with laid-off Picayune journalists) and creating a New Orleans edition.
The Times-Picayune seemed to acknowledge the toll its purge took on its photo staff in the introduction to “Our Best Photos of 2012,” which was published Dec. 28: “Even as the newspaper industry shifted under their feet, our shooters continued to cover their communities with resourcefulness, creativity, empathy and professionalism, as evidenced by this gallery of unforgettable images from the past 12 months.”
Sixteen of the 41 photos featured in the roundup – or almost 40% – were shot by photographers who were axed amid the newspaper’s transformation to a “digital first” strategy. These talented photojournalists included: Susan Poag, John McCusker, Rusty Costanza, Scott Threlkeld, Matthew Hinton, Ellis Lucia and Eliot Kamenitz.
Ryan Chittum, deputy editor of Columbia Journalism Review‘s “The Audit,” also selected one of his Times-Picayune reports as “The Best of 2012”: “New Orleans meets the Hamster Wheel — The fall of the Times-Picayune.” “The gutting of New Orleans beloved Times-Picayune and Advance Publications’ plan to turn it into a sort of major market AnnArbor.com looks set to bring journalism built on ‘motion for motion’s sake… volume without thought’ to a city built on doing the opposite,” Chittum wrote.
Beyond The Times-Picayune, the Poynter Institute noted in a Dec. 30 tweet that at least 2,000 journalists had lost their jobs in 2012. Of those 2,000, at least 1,336 – or almost 67% of the country’s total – were laid off from Advance Publications newspapers, spanning from Syracuse, New York, to Mobile, Ala.
As of this writing, The Times-Picayune had not published its own list of top stories in 2012. Given that the newspaper will not publish another edition until Wednesday, which is Jan. 2, it seems unlikely that it will offer its round-up of this tumultuous year in its history – unless it does so only digitally, on NOLA.com. If that occurs later today, this post will be updated to reflect it.