NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Times-Picayune is expected to fire at least one-third of its 150 reporters as the newspaper reduces its print edition to three times a week, a New Orleans weekly reported.
“Staff will immediately be whacked by at least a third (from 150 to 100 or fewer reporters). Top brass will be fired and reporters who remain aboard will take sharp salary cuts and be expected to start blogging through the day [for affiliated website NOLA.com],” according to The Gambit, a local weekly. (Brackets in original.)
Editor Jim Amoss is expected to remain.
The Times-Picayune, which won two Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina – for breaking news and public service – had 65 percent market penetration, one of the highest in the nation. Market penetration refers to the percentage of dwellings in the circulation that subscribe to the paper.
The Times-Picayune’s circulation fell by nearly 50 percent in recent years, 257,000 weekdays in March 2005 to 134,000 in March this year, and from about 286,000 Sundays in 2005 to 155,000 this year, according to the Poynter Institute.
New Orleans’ population still has not recovered from Katrina, having fallen by about 29 percent, according to the 2010 Census.
The Times-Picayune said it will continue publishing daily online.
“The change is intended to reshape how the New Orleans area’s dominant news organization delivers its award-winning local news, sports and entertainment coverage in an increasingly digital age,” the newspaper reportedon its website Thursday.
The report came a day after The New York Times first broke the news of the cutbacks. According to subsequent reports here, the Times-Picayune staff heard of the cutback via The New York Times story.
For quite some time, Times-Picayune reporters have been told to keep their reporting hours under a prescribed weekly maximum.
Beginning this fall, the newspaper will begin publishing print editions only on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – prime days for advertising.
Aside from salaries and benefits, newsprint is the largest expense for daily newspapers.
The three days were chosen in part so that the print edition is distributed across the entire week, “but also because Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays have proved to be the most valuable days for the newspaper’s advertisers,” the Times-Picayune said in its web story.
The newspaper said a new company, the NOLA Media Group, will include the Times-Picayune and its website, NOLA.com.
A second new company, Advance Central Services, will print and deliver the newspaper.
Both the Times-Picayune and NOLA.com are owned by Advance Publications, a Newhouse company whose divisions have holdings in newspaper, magazine, cable television and websites.
In 1980 The Times-Picayune merged with its afternoon companion, The States-Item. After that, the paper opened a network of suburban bureaus and strengthened its investigative and political coverage. It won a Pulitzer Prize for environmental coverage in the 1990s and two more after Hurricane Katrina.
The newspaper has the highest circulation per capita of any U.S. metro area, according to an Associated Press report. Three Alabama dailies owned by Advance also will go to three days a week, the AP reported: The Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times, and the Mobile Press-Register.
The cutback will leave New Orleans as the largest metropolitan area in the country without a daily newspaper.
In 2009, Advance Publications was ranked as the 46th largest private company in the United States.
Also in 2009, the Advance-owned Ann Arbor News in Michigan ended print publication and moved to an online-only format, MLive.com.
According to The Gambit, MLive.com is responsible for “the internationally despised ‘yellow journalism’ design that was recently rolled out with great fanfare by NOLA.com.”
Local legislators said last week that the Times Picayune cutback to three times a week will require changesto a state law to allow a nondaily newspaper to be the official journal for governmental advertising – such as notices, court proceedings, foreclosures, successions, local bills and others.
As the law is written, legal notices must be advertised in the “official journal,” and in New Orleans that has been the daily newspaper.
State Senator J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, told the Times-Picayune that if the law is not changed, legal challenges can be filed if the state’s legal advertising continues in a non-daily newspaper.