The Times-Picayune Fiasco: A Former Reporter Has Stories to Tell

Sometimes a person is just having a routine day at the office, going through the usual motions, perhaps thinking of what to get for supper, and then BAM! something happens that suddenly bounces a life in a new direction.

That happened last year to Rebecca Theim a former reporter for The Times-Picayune (1988- ’94) who has most recently been living and working in Las Vegas. When she heard about The T-P being reduced to thrice weekly and about the accompanying layoffs, she was outraged. Being separated by distance she could have easily been justified for doing nothing, instead she got into action. She founded a group that raised money to divide among the terminated employees. She also uncorked her reporting skills and began following the story as a journalist.

One day when media historians study what the Newhouses did to journalism, Theim (pronounced “theme”) will be an important source, perhaps the most important. Now we are seeing the results of her work. This month her new book, Hell and High Water: The Battle to Save the Daily Times-Picayune, is being released by Pelican Publishing company. The publication is an excellent, at times riveting, bit of reporting put together in an amazingly short time. New Orleans Magazine carried an excerpt in its October issue, which you can read here. Having to draw 2000 words from a book, every word of which is worth reading, was a difficult task. We chose to start at the beginning so that the first chapter entitled “This Isn’t the Death of a Newspaper. This Is a Drive-by Shooting” could set the context.

Theim’s writing appears again in the newsletter of the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism school.

Entitled “A year after daily publication ceased in Alabama and New Orleans, media market is ‘fractured’” the article is an evenhanded and analytical study of the Newhouses' downsizing of newspapers in Alabama as well The Times-Picayune. (One of the article’s most revealing moments comes from her quoting John Georges, The Advocate’s new owner, saying, “Maybe I win, and maybe I don’t, but I can tell you that I have a very long-term outlook and a very high threshold for pain.”

If you really want to understand the situation, take time and read both. For Rebecca Theim, fate came knocking at her door – fortunately she answered.

Meanwhile, on other matters, while in downtown Manhattan one day Stave Newhouse might want to consider going to visit Roger Goodell to see if the NFL can change Saints games to Tuesday nights. That’s the only way that Saints fans can get early week, next day home-delivered coverage of the Saints. That doesn’t happen on the day after Sunday games nor, as we experienced last week, after the Monday Night Football game. We are empathetic with Newhouse; all that he has to pull for is the Giants and the Jets. Maybe he doesn’t understand the excitement of having a team with an undefeated record.
 

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BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), is due to be released Oct. 31, 2013. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

WATCH "INFORMED SOURCES," FRIDAYS  AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.
   

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