Thank you, Steve Newhouse

It’s been a week since the jazz funeral for The New Orleans Times-Picayune. For the most part, the “noise” that briefly filtered up to New York and New Jersey from those people down there has quieted down. At the Friday night wake at Rock ‘n’ Bowl, those who were moving on to the Picayune’s digital incarnation; those who either didn’t make the cut or spurned it; and people like me who left the newspaper decades ago reminisced and mourned. The funeral Saturday (fittingly, at Warehouse District music hall The Howlin’ Wolf) included an auction that raised thousands of dollars (final tally not yet in) to benefit the reporters, editors, artists, clerks and news carriers who lost their jobs. On Sunday morning, a few of us sat together at St. Louis Cathedral to hear the archbishop pray for our paper and our city.

Probably no catalyst short of the Picayune catastrophe could have accomplished all that. So thank you, Steve Newhouse.

The Picayune, 175, died after it was an unwilling participant in a medical trial, a lab rat for its owner’s experiments with a new drug, Digital-us. Still, any Continue reading

Chronicle of a Death Foresold

In the 1990s, when I first worked there, the Los Angeles Times was at the end of its legendary “Velvet Coffin” era for reporters and editors: unlimited time to work on stories (the years-long investigation of Scientology became a newsroom joke); first-class travel (at least for longer flights); salaries that, if they weren’t in the same ballpark as television reporters’, were at least in the same zip code. But then the Chandlers’ benevolent monarchy was overthrown by a series of moneygrubbers, in and out of the family. As one of my editors put it to an outraged reporter who threatened to appeal some decision by the bean counters, “Otis has gone surfing, and he’s not coming back.”

And so it went: buyout offer, layoffs, next buyout offer, more layoffs, voluntary severance, involuntary severance. Each round deliberately Continue reading