Seven years of slow motion seppuku culminated in the sale of the Times-Picayune/NOLA.com to the owners of the upstart Advocate. Seppuku is a ritual form of suicide that involves self-disembowelment and bleeding out. That’s exactly what happened at the Times-Pic as a series of stupid business decisions led to its sale to the competition. Did I say stupid? I meant wicked stupid. That’s why I call it the Zombie Picayune.
Once again, a newspaper staff is suffering at the hands of the suits. The TP/NOLA.com staff were laid-off. Some will be hired by the Advocate company, others will not be so lucky. Twitter is full of tweets from TP people who are looking for work. Mass layoffs are an inauspicious way for a new era in local journalism to begin. My condolences and best wishes to the folks who were fired yesterday.
The “new era” at the Times-Picayune started in 2012 with a wave of mass firings. Management bragged about its “new paradigm” and promised “robust content.” I knew they were in for a bumpy ride when it became apparent that the paper’s Newhouse/Advance masters were winging it. It was an experiment that ended up destroying a profitable newspaper that was at the height of its journalistic powers when the slow motion seppuku began. The bond between the Times-Pic and its readers had strengthened because of its superb coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. That bond was shattered seven years ago at the hands of the paper’s outside owners. Repeat after me: wicked stupid.
I have friends who have been fired by both media companies. My sympathies are with the TP staffers who are suffering because of the stupidity of long-gone managers; make that mismanagers. I have nothing but contempt for the villains of the piece: the suits at Newhouse/Advance. What the hell were they thinking? Nothing much as it turns out. They were the ones who zombified the Picayune. They’re not the ones who are suffering the consequences of their “robust new paradigm.” It’s the American way: the people at the top fuck up and their employees pay the price for their ineptitude.
I saw this coming years ago but, even though I agree with Gore Vidal who said, “the most beautiful words in the English language are I told you so,” I don’t have the heart to write or say them as New Orleans once again becomes a one-newspaper monopoly town. That’s our new paradigm. Let’s hope it’s a robust one.