In the fall, The Times-Picayune, an Advance Publications daily newspaper based in New Orleans, La., will cut back to three-day-a-week publication: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. This move will allow the media company, which was praised for its Hurricane Katrina online coverage in 2005, to focus on what it knows best: digital.
Advance said it will also reduce the frequency of its Huntsville, Mobile and Birmingham newspapers to three days a week.
On the negative side, this shift means that New Orleans will be the largest city in the United States not to have a daily published newspaper.
It also means major staff cuts.
According to an article published on NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune‘s website, 201 staffers across all departments, including news, advertising and circulation, will lose their jobs. Their last day on the job will be Sept. 30. Some employees were invited to reapply for jobs at the paper.
The company, which includes both The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, will be renamed NOLA Media Group, putting emphasis first on digital.
And rightfully so.
Publisher Ashton Phelps Jr. wrote in a letter to employees that the newly formed company “will launch this fall and … will develop new and innovative ways to deliver news and information to the company’s online and mobile readers.” However, the company hasn’t yet provided specifics about how it will beef up its digital and mobile coverage.
The Times-Picayune rose to the digital occasion during Hurricane Irene, providing 24/7 coverage of the tragic event and a platform for families and friends to reconnect. The paper wasn’t printed for three days because of the hurricane.
Employees were evacuated from The Times-Picayune‘s offices during the hurricane but still managed to put out digital editions every day. Many newsroom employees chose to stay anyway and report on Hurricane Katrina.
The Times-Picayune won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for breaking news reporting “for its courageous and aggressive coverage of Hurricane Katrina, overcoming desperate conditions facing the city and the newspaper,” according to the Pulitzer Prize website. It also received a 2006 Pulitzer along with The Sun Herald in Gulfport, Miss., “for its heroic, multi-faceted coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, making exceptional use of the newspaper’s resources to serve an inundated city even after evacuation of the newspaper plant.”
Advance Publications seems to be setting a trend at its daily newspapers.
For example, in 2009, Advance Publications, owned by the Newhouse family, changed the name of afternoon daily paper The Ann Arbor News in Michigan to AnnArbor.com, now both the name of the newspaper and its corresponding website. It also cut back publication in print to two days a week (Thursdays and Sundays).
According to a 2011 article on AnnArbor.com, 14 employees were let go in March of that year, leaving approximately 20 newsroom employees. When the transition occurred in 2009 from the daily Ann Arbor News to AnnArbor.com, with two-day-a-week print delivery, 70 news employees received buyout packages, and a total of 214 jobs were cut, according to an article on Mlive.com.
In addition, two AnnArbor.com executives have recently been hired by NJ.com, the website of The Star-Ledger, the statewide New Jersey newspaper owned by Advance Publications, fueling speculation about the success of AnnArbor.com.
In February, Advance Publications formed MLive Media Group, which includes MLive.com, AnnArbor.com, in addition to daily newspapers The Grand Rapids Press, Muskegon Chronicle, Jackson Citizen Patriot, The Flint Journal, The Bay City Times, The Saginaw News, Kalamazoo Gazette and Advance weeklies in the Grand Rapids region. The seven daily newspapers were also cut back to three-day-a-week publication in print.
A story on the website of Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University says that the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News cut publications days from seven to delivery on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays in 2009. However, papers are still printed seven days a week and available daily on newsstands.
According to an article in Crain’s Detroit Business, circulation numbers for The Press and News show mixed results. A portion of the article reads: “The area’s biggest paper saw both declines and increases under the changes in circulation accounting that began about 18 months ago to reflect the rapid increase in online, mobile and tablet devices for news consumption.”
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