[UPDATED] New Orleans Times-Picayune to cut staff, reduce publication schedule

CONFIRMED: The Times-Picayune says it will move to three printed papers a week beginning this fall.

With a reduced printing schedule starting in the fall, [editor Jim] Amoss said, plans call for the Wednesday, Friday and Sunday editions of The Times-Picayune to be in many ways more robust than each of the daily newspapers is currently. They will contain a richer and deeper news, sports and entertainment report, as well as a full week’s worth of features such as society coverage, puzzles and comics.

* Read the memo to the Times-Picayune staff

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The Newhouse family-owned New Orleans Times-Picayune plans to cut staff and may reduce its daily publication schedule to two or three times a week.

Reports of restructuring at the Pulitzer-winning paper started circulating last night. My tipster — a former Times-Pic staffer — heard that they’re “going to an all-online site with a print edition maybe just a few times a week, getting rid of a bunch of top editors … [and] staffers must reapply for jobs at drastically reduced salaries averaging $30K to $35K.” (Current staffers are skeptical about those numbers. “People aren’t going to work for that. Who are they going to get — 2012 LSU grads?”)

David Carr posted a story at 11:33 p.m., and New Orleans alt-weekly Gambit got its report up at 2:40 a.m.

From Carr’s story:

[Jim] Amoss, the longtime editor, will assist in the transition before leaving. Two managing editors, Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea, both of whom were reportedly excluded from all meetings in recent weeks about the developments, will be leaving as well.

The leak about restructuring “comes after a tumultuous week in the T-P newsroom, which began after incoming publisher Ricky Mathews came to New Orleans last week and held meetings with some — but not all — Times-Picayune executives off the building’s premises,” reports Gambit. It continues:

Multiple sources have told Gambit that editor Jim Amoss and city editor Gordon Russell were in the meetings, as were sports editor Doug Tatum and features editor Mark Lorando. Managing editors Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea, the No. 2 lieutenants to Amoss, were excluded.

As for what the newsroom itself will become, the outlook is still unclear, though everyone expects significant layoffs to occur soon. As Carr wrote, “the newspaper will likely cease to exist as a daily newspaper, and will publish two or three times a week.”

A Gambit source hears “the staff will immediately be whacked by at least a third (from 150 to 100 or fewer reporters).”

The level of disrespect for T-P employees by upper management was the main topic of conversation tonight. All employees with whom Gambit spoke — even longtime senior writers and editors — said they learned of their fates from The New York Times report.

“My supervisor didn’t even fucking know,” said one reporter. “My supervisor.”

“I had to find this out by Twitter,” said another. “Do I go in to the office tomorrow? Do I even have a job to go in to tomorrow? I don’t know. No one has called me. No one has said anything.”

Carr tweeted a link to his story at 11:35 p.m. last night, and wrote: “A great town deserves a great paper.” That’s been retweeted over 50 times.

A COUPLE OF OBSERVATIONS:

– Newhouse is doing the same thing simultaneously with its papers in Alabama, I’m told.
– The Times-Picayune remains profitable. As recently as the beginning of this year, the paper was paying bonuses. Staffers got bonuses at the end of 2010 and 2011 as the result of unexpected profitability.
– Some staffers figured bad news was coming when Ashton Phelps decided to retire after 32 years with the paper. They guessed he didn’t want to be around for whatever Newhouse had planned for the T-P. Some are surprised that Amoss is staying to carry out Newhouse’s plans.

* New Orleans paper said to face deep cuts, may cut back on publication (NYT)
*
Times-Picayune employees in shock as extent of cuts begin to emerge (Gambit)
* What New Orleans can expect when its paper goes away (Forbes)

EARLIER STORIES:
* March 27, 2012: Mobile Press-Register publisher Ricky Mathews named Times-Picayune publisher (Al.com)
* January 4, 2006: Times-Picayune publisher Jim Amoss, a voice for New Orleans (NPR)
* September 12, 2005: Newhouse knocks down rumor about T-P folding because of Katrina (NY Observer)

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