Squandered Heritage Vintage

The Times Picayune

The Times-Picayune is a daily newspaper

Established as The Picayune in 1837, the paper’s initial price was one picayune

A picayune was a Spanish coin worth half a Spanish real. Its name derives from the French language picaillon, which is itself from the Provencall language picaioun, meaning “small coin.” By extension,picayune can mean “trivial” or “of little value.” It became The Times-Picayune after merging with its rival paper, the New Orleans Times, in 1914.

Samuel Irving Newhouse, Sr. was a United States of America broadcasting businessman, magazine and newspaper publisher.Born in 1895, his original name was Solomon Neuhaus bought the Times-Picayune and the other remaining New Orleans daily, the States-Item, in 1962, and merged the papers in 1980.

The last year has not be a kind one for the media industry in general and the newspaper industry specifically. Since most of us who read the paper think of the bldg at Howard Ave as the home of the Times Pic it is important to remember that the real home, the one where the decisions are made, does business in NY under the name Advance Publications Inc.

The number of newspapers under the guidance of the Advance Team in impressive. Over 20 daily publications across the country. Newspapers which will all feel the pressure of losses at Newhouse/Conde Nast and Advance. And it is not just newspapers that will feel the pressure it is the community that the newspaper serves. And it can not be overstated that media is in service to the community in which it exists.

There is an old saying “When the U.S. get’s a cold Mexico get pneumonia.” But in this case you could replace the U.S with Advance/Newhouse and Mexico with the T.P. But even that analogy is too weak in this case.

For a business in the business of publishing news they have been slow to react, and it seems that react was all they did. This past year at the Times Picayune there have been mandatory furloughs. This is the questionable practice of forced unpaid days off, days and sometimes weeks. Last year came furloughs for the staff at the T.P and then came buyouts. Now I hear there has been another round of buyout offers to the entire staff. For an industry that is famously underpaid, the average reporter starts at around 30k a year and caps out at 70k after 20 years, the idea of staunching the losses by asking the lesser compensated to tighten the belt may be palatable but for the fact that nickle and diming your way out of this mess will only serve to hurt veteran reporters and do little to rearrange the calculus losses.

Perhaps this explains some of the logic behind the decision to pick off people at the bottom of the foodchain, buried in a long piece in May 31 issue of New York magazine was this sentence,

No one in the family believes the newspaper business is coming back.

So while the media landslide continues at Conde Nast those of us who look to the Times Picayune as a source of news are finding more and more the paper version is becoming thinner and nola.com is becoming more and more of a punchline joke as it features an assortment of stories about giant pumpkins and 7 foot dogs. Pumpkins and dogs that don’t even live here they might as well be reporting on unicorns sitings. Or big foot…

This recent piece in Newsweek entitled “Just How Much Did Conde Nast Lose?” contains this gem.

The company is headed by S. I. Newhouse, the magazine mogul, and Donald Newhouse, who runs the battered newspaper division. As a result of the historic economic reversals, Donald’s wealth slipped by a half billion to $8 billion this year, according to Forbes magazine’s recent list of the nation’s 400 richest persons. Meanwhile, S.I.’s estimated wealth plunged to $4.5 billion from $8 billion.

So let’s all pass the tin cup for the Newhouse family. And watch the Times Picayune sink into irrelevance.

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • rickngentilly

    Dear Ms. Karen. I just want to thank you for your comment on Jeffery’s Blog.

    I have had many of my fears of post katrina power/land grabs confirmed and have felt empowered and educated to do something about it by your data base.

    Your quote on the Library Chronicles challenged me to re-examine some feel good thoughts I had about the pink.

    The Hester Pryne image really hit home.

    Thank you for being a productive peson in our town who can challenge the status quo in such a positive way.

    I am a cook and not a very good writter but i love to read and allways feel blessed when I find the words of some one who makes me think.

    sorry for this crappy tribute. I hope the gist of what i’m trying to say carries thru.

  • Adrastos

    Great post, Karen.