Times-Picayune reporter blasts ownership

Kari Dequine Harden, a reporter who just quit the New Orleans Times-Picayune, penned a strong resignation letter, one that’ll be getting some bulletin-board treatment around the industry. The screed is addressed to Steven Newhouse, owner of the Times-Picayune, a paper in the midst of a painful transition. This past spring, it announced the trio of newspaper moribundity: layoffs, print-schedule reduction and a new Web focus!

Harden trashes the whole thing in a voice of righteous anger and accusation: “You have betrayed my most esteemed colleagues, my city, my belief in journalism, and my belief in people.”

She gets high-minded:

From New Orleans, a city already with odds against, you are taking our historical record. You are taking away a source of news that has been relied upon to document it all — magnificent and mundane — and to hold police and publicly elected officials accountable. This city is worse off for the loss. We will struggle, new sources will emerge and serve the city in positive ways — but do not for a second think that this isn’t a devastating blow to everyone. Competition included.

Low-minded:

I, for one, will not be buying any more newspapers from you. I will not be visiting your atrocious website.

And she also overreaches:

Need I remind you we were profitable? This paper had good years left in it. Great years. Adjustments may have been necessary, I realize, but I will never believe this is all happening because The Times-Picayune could not have survived if you left us alone just as you had done for decades prior.

We would have found a way. And made you a profit the entire time.

That last bit has a facile feel to it. If Dequine and her colleages could have “found a way” to keep the Times-Picayune from conforming with industry trends, they’d have been revolutionaries. Have a look at this paragraph from the Digital Future Report of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism:

[S]ales figures do not lie; circulation of print newspapers continues to plummet, and the current generation of print newspaper readers is not being replaced. We believe that most major U.S. daily newspapers as we know them today as print editions will be gone in about five years; eventually the only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium — the largest and the smallest. We expect at least four major newspapers with global reach to continue to publish daily print editions: The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

At the other extreme, local weekly and twice-weekly newspapers may continue in print form, as well as the Sunday print editions of metropolitan newspapers that otherwise may exist only in online editions.

The point being that no one has yet “found a way” to stop the free fall of the once-robust regional newspaper.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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