T-P reporter to newspaper brass: “I can’t keep my mouth shut and pretend everything is OK”

UPDATE 7/24/12, 1 PM CDT: Times-Picayune Editors Meet with Reporter Who Said She Was “Pissed” (JimRomenesko.com)

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July 9, 2012 – Times-Picayune Reporter Kari Dequine Harden was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take this anymore.

In an email she sent to incoming Publisher Ricky Mathews, Editor Jim Amoss, Online Editor Lynn Cunningham, NOLA.com Director of Content James O’Byrne and NOLA.com Managing Producer Keith Marszalek, and later forwarded to reporters including widely followed media blogger Jim Romenesko, Dequine Harden detailed how difficult it is to work for the newspaper as its staff continues its death march toward decimated ranks, thrice-weekly publication and increased reliance on the much-derided NOLA.com.

“I take a lot of pride in my work, even after I’ve been fired and told my experience, skills, and talents are of no use after Sept. 30,” Dequine Harden wrote. “But compared to other news outlets, our website is a joke. We break news – but no one would know because of the worst news website known to man and the priority setting – whoever is doing it, is totally fucked. Embarrassing, compared to TV. And yet we are focused on digital now? Enhanced? Who is buying this crap?”

Read all of Dequine Harden’s email – along with the note she sent to Romenesko – by clicking here.

As soon as Romenesko posted Dequine Harden’s email, the closed “Friends of The Times-Picayune Editorial” Facebook page lit up with dozens of congratulatory and admiring comments. And numerous Twitter accounts spread her missive, including those of native New Orleanian and NBC’s “Meet the Press” Executive Producer Betsy Fischer Martin, Forbes.com contributors Micheline Maynard and John McQuaid (the latter also a Times-Picayune alum), Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi C. Thomas, Dillard University President Walter M. Kimbrough, Gambit and countless other journalists around the country.

“Being in this newsroom has been the best experience of my life,” Dequine Harden, 32, noted later in the day on the Facebook page. “It’s the coolest. Being around these amazingly talented and kind people has made me a much better journalist, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”

Because of her “occasional” status, Dequine Harden – who has written for the paper in some capacity for about six years, and worked weekends and holidays, and temporarily filled other shifts for the past two – is ineligible for severance and therefore isn’t signing the non-disparagement agreement required of full-time staffers who want the payouts.

“Financially, I have a lot less to lose than my colleagues. What I have to lose is about 11 more weekends and the opportunity to pitch stories, which I really don’t want to lose … But every time I think I’ve made it through the anger phase of my grief, something makes me snap (and send emails).”

In a separate message, Dequine Harden also mentioned that she’s headed on vacation and that now “may be good timing to disappear for about 10 days.”

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In today’s Times-Picayune: New Orleanians support soon-to-be laid-off T-P employees by eating, drinking

Today’s Times-Picayune reports on dashTHIRTYdash and the community’s continuing support of a daily newspaper and of T-P employees who will lose their jobs as the paper abandons daily print publication after Sept. 30. The story is on the metro section front of today’s print edition. Choice excerpts are below or read the entire story on NOLA.com by clicking here.

Slim Goodies owner Kappa Horn shows off envelopes with additional donations given by her diner’s patrons to support laid-off Times-Picayune employees. Horn is one of many local business owners supporting dashTHIRTYdasy. Photo by Eliot Kamenitz, The Times-Picayune

Local writer Michael Tisserand showed up as a gesture of 

support, as well as for the sweet potato pancakes with pecans.

“I love New Orleans, and I don’t want to see New Orleans be the first major city without a daily paper,” he said. Tisserand said [Kappa] Horn’s effort was “very inspiring,” and “reminds me why I love New Orleans.” [Kappa owns Slim Goodies Diner, which Sunday hosted a  well-attended benefit for dashTHIRTYdash.]

Polly Watts, owner of The Avenue Pub, said her business’

involvement was a way to let the soon-to-be-unemployed know that “someone gives a damn and that we are grateful for what they have done, and that we will miss them.” She said she saw the company more as a public service, even a “public utility, ” as much as it was a business. [Polly hosted a very successful fundraiser for dashTHIRTYdash on Thursday, June 28.]

“It’s a big part of the fabric of the city, ” she said. Whether or not you read the newspaper, Watts said, “you will feel its absence.”

Tisserand said he felt he had a relationship with the newspaper’s writers. “Through the bylines and the kinds of stories they write, ” he said, “you feel like they are part of the family.”

Over the past several weeks, the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group also has donated a percentage of sales from specially created cocktails.

In addition to eating and drinking, accessorizing has also become a popular means of showing solidarity.

Jewelry designer Mignon Faget has launched a Times-Picayune stud pin, donating 10 percent of sales to the fund. And this week, the Uptown gift shop Plum will donate 20 percent of its sales on 20 New Orleans-themed items to the fund.

Sheila Grissett, who worked for The Times-Picayune for 26 years before leaving just over a year ago, said she bought six Mignon Faget pins. She also bought six “Save The Picayune” T-shirts and was looking to buy eight or 10 of the dashTHIRTYdash T-shirts sold at Thursday’s pub crawl.

“There was a way to do this without gutting the newsroom and uprooting so many lives, ” Grissett said. “Our message is that we are not going to forget what was done.”

Getting news online, Christine Cozic, Grissett’s tablemate, said, is “not the same as sitting with breakfast and a cup of coffee and relaxing with the paper. People stare at computers all day.”

Horn said she expects the effort to grow. “The city knows the value of coming together, ” she said. “This city will fight to the death for something they believe in, something that is essentially New Orleans. The Times-Picayune is essentially New Orleans.”