Jan 20, 201409:43 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

The T-P Fiasco: Cleveland Gets a Better Deal, Yet Staff Feels The T-P’s Pain

The Newhouse Effect is felt in Cleveland.

Although the Newhouses gave Cleveland a better deal than they did New Orleans, the newsroom at Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer is starting to feel the impact of the company's new cost-efficient, freestyle approach to publishing.

While The Times-Picayune was cut back to three days a week with home delivery, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; The Plain Dealer still publishes a full daily newspaper and has the advantage of four days of delivery Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday as opposed to our three. The edition that Clevelanders get that we do not is Saturday, which is an important news day in New Orleans as we will be reminded Feb. 1 when city elections are held that day. Saturday is also an important day for sports, end of the week news and even reading the details about indictments, which often are delivered on Fridays. Nevertheless, the Newhouses, under the name “Advance Publishing,” are implementing the same type of newsroom reorganization for The Plain Dealer that they imposed here.

“This Used to be a Newsroom” is the headline of a recent article in The Columbia Journalism Review that tells about the venerable newspaper going through the same fate as The Times-Picayune.

Referred to among reporters as "backpack journalism," the Newhouse concept treats newsrooms as more of a space for occasional gatherings rather than a place to go to work and hang your hat. Emphasis is on aggressively churning out digital content, most often from elsewhere.

A picture of an empty newsroom with abandoned cubicles accompanies the article about The Plain Dealer by reporter Anna Clark:

Over the past year the Cleveland paper has followed much the same plan that owner Advance Publications carved out in New Orleans and elsewhere: It reduced print delivery, shed staff through layoffs and buyouts, and saw the creation of a new, non-unionized digital company under the same corporate umbrella.

As revealed in the article, a common part of the Newhouses’ new newsroom vision is to relocate the editorial staff in a downtown office building. Just as T-P staffers were moved from the newspaper's Howard Avenue facility to Canal Place, The Plain Dealer’s reporters are being moved to something called the Skylight Office Tower. Virginia Wang, the newspaper’s general manager, was quoted saying the move “allows our reporters to continue being the voice of the community from a centrally located facility.” A staff reporter, speaking anonymously, took a dimmer view: “Our newsroom culture is gone.”

Another company official, Andrea Hogben, who sounds like she has gone to the same company training sessions that T-P publisher Rick Mathews has attended, announced, “The newly renovated space is designed to showcase our digital capabilities and promote a culture of innovation and creativity.” According to Hogben, “An ‘open office’ will feature a ‘variety of collaborative areas’ for media group employees.”

To the contrary, a source that the article described as a  “veteran Plain Dealer journalist,” commented that the new layout is actually encouraging “journalists to work remotely and hindering collaboration.”

Curiously, while all media companies are facing issues of adapting to the age of the internet, including this website's parent company, Renaissance Publishing, there is no evidence of any company adopting the Newhouse Draconian model. It is an ongoing story, one that will keep changing – seven days a week.

                                      -30-


 

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. You can find it at local bookstores or online.

WATCH "INFORMED SOURCES," FRIDAYS  AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.


Reader Comments:
Jan 20, 2014 11:17 am
 Posted by  charlene

an empty newsroom.......how sad...........again, new orleans deserves better..........mr. laborde.....don't give up the fight!!!! sincerely,charlene

Jan 20, 2014 01:17 pm
 Posted by  Rick

The "fight" isnt really necessary. There is the New Orleans Advocate for Seven Day a week news. Change happens everyone is aware of this fact, but on how the change happens and what change happens is what the discussion will and should be focused. If the dot com boom and bust cycle taught us anyhing it taught us that just becasue something CAN be done is no argument that it SHOULD be done.

The proper business model for news delivery and advertising revenue generation will evolve to the right place. For companies who have the soul and core values to help create that evolution without creating people roadkill in the process the future is very bright.

Jan 21, 2014 05:13 am
 Posted by  arg

True, elections are on Saturday in New Orleans, but the results (assuming the integrity of the election process) will not be known until Saturday night into Sunday, thus negating the stated reason for a Saturday morning edition? The paper's editions published the previous week have already told the sheeple who to vote for.

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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