Late in the evening of May 23, employees of the Times-Picayune read in the New York Times that their jobs would soon be lost or significantly altered as the 175 year old paper would be folded into a new "digitally focused" media company. The print edition of the paper would be reduced to a three day per week schedule. Over 200 employees would be laid off or reassigned in the process.
The summer following the T-P's announcement has seen a lively discussion about the future of the news media in New Orleans and elsewhere. Some have argued against the changes altogether. Others have suggested they aren't happening fast enough. A still more nuanced and complete view will take into account questions about the needs of the community being served, as well as the costs of "doing journalism" and how those costs are covered.
Looming over all of this is the concern that New Orleans is losing its "paper of record" where a great cross-section of the community is presented with a comprehensive consensus view of the issues and events that matter most to them. Precisely defining the vacuum the Times-Picayune will leave in local news coverage may be an elusive proposition, but in the meantime, there is no shortage of entities and "alliances" lining up to try and fill it.
Will the upheaval in the news industry eventually lead to an era of clearer focus for readers in New Orleans? Or will the fragmented nature of the digital lens merely bring about a more robust confusion?
Moderator: Peter Athas - A longtime New Orleanian, lapsed lawyer and musician, Athas has been blogging about politics, music and whatever else seizes his fancy as "Adrastos" since 2005. His writing appears at First Draft, Humid City, and Back of Town.
Kevin Allman - Editor at The Gambit, the alt-weekly newspaper in New Orleans, Allman has been the editor of Gambit since 2008, where he has been covering the transition at The Times-Picayune since the night the story broke. In a previous life, he worked for the L.A. Times, and his stories have appeared in publications from The Washington Post to the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Last year, his questioning of then-presidential candidate Michele Bachmann about Louisiana public schools' teaching of "intelligent design" made national news. In July, he received the Press Club of New Orleans' highest honor for editorial writing, the Ashton Phelps Sr. Memorial Award.
Robert Morris - News Director at Uptown Messenger Morris began his journalism career in 2003 as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in his hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss. He quickly moved to progressively larger newspapers: the Palatka (Fla.) Daily News; The Courier, a New York Times regional paper in Houma, La.; and most recently The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., as first a reporter covering crime, politics and special investigations and finally as editorial page editor. Robert’s reporting has taken him from the inside of a modern-day slave labor camp in northern Florida to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Obama. He covered the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast before taking a job at The Courier in Houma. While there, Robert’s coverage of the cultural effects of wetlands loss around Houma and the investigation and arrest of serial killer Ronald Dominique swept the Louisiana Press Association awards.
UptownMessenger.com is a local, independent online source of news, commerce and knowledge for Uptown New Orleans that had its formal launch in September 2010.
Jason B. Berry - An independent, investigative blogger whose primary focus is on local government corruption here in the New Orleans metro area, Barry has through his own blog, American Zombie, and other local media outlets, helped expose numerous corruption issues ranging from the New Orleans IT office scandal during the Nagin administration to the cover up of the ongoing effects of the BP oil spill. Jason has a background in video production and online media distribution. In 2006 he co-directed a documentary on the New Orleans public school system titled "Left Behind". He is currently working on a new documentary chronicling corruption in the New Orleans metro area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill that is tentatively titled, "Kleptopolis". He is also a proud recipient of the 2009 Rising Tide Ashley award and contrary to popular belief he has never been sued for libel...at least not yet.
James O'Byrne - During a 30-year career at The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, James has held multiple roles, from political reporter to environmental writer to Special Projects editor to Sunday editor and Features editor. He has been director of content for NOLA.com for the past 3½ years. James was a reporter and editor on teams that won two Pulitzer Prizes in 2006 for coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and was an editor on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1996 series on worldwide fisheries depletion. When NOLA Media Group launches in October, James will be Director of State Content, overseeing high school, college and professional sports, legislative and statewide political news, and market expansion projects.
Katy Reckdahl - As staff reporter for The Times-Picayune, Reckdahl has covered New Orleans since 1999. Her stories have tackled topics from homelessness and HIV-positive women to Mardi Gras Indians and jazz musicians. She has won numerous awards, including a Casey Journalism Center Medal, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, and the Press Club of New Orleans's Alex Waller Memorial Award.