In light of today's announcement from the newly created NOLA Media Group, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to this 2008 column by the American Journalism Review's Rem Rieder, slamming the dishonest language of newspaper layoff press releases, which often appear as a "news item" in the business pages.
Inevitably, the publisher accompanies news of the bloodletting with the solemn declaration that the cutbacks in no way suggest that the paper is backing off from its commitment to world-class public service journalism.
There's not really a problem, you see. The paper is going to do more with less.
This nonsense is repeated so often that it's amazing anyone can still say it with a straight face. Certainly no one believes it.
(Continued after the jump)
In The Times-Picayune's case, we might have hoped for or expected something a little more candid. Drastic newspaper cuts like this have been going on for a while now. At this point, we all know that "exciting opportunities for growth" means "journalists are directed to report to the Department of Children and Family Services to pick up their food stamp applications." So you might as well give it to us straight. Yes?
Or maybe not. After all, NOLA Media Group apparently didn't have enough respect for its employees to warn them of the impending disaster ahead of time, which would have been any time before they found out about it from David Carr. Why would they treat us, the paper's readers, any better? Well, they wouldn't.
See this headline — "New digitally focused company launches this fall with beefed up online coverage; The Times-Picayune will move this fall to three printed papers a week" — which is not only insulting but, at 20-words-plus, way too "beefed up."
And then there's the "story" that follows. Notice the lede, where you traditionally put the newsiest bit of news. Here's what they think it is:
A new company - the NOLA Media Group, which will include The Times-Picayune and its affiliated web site NOLA.com - was announced today by Ricky Mathews, who will become its president. The change is intended to reshape how the New Orleans area's dominant news organization delivers its award-winning local news, sports and entertainment coverage in an increasingly digital age.
There's going to be a new company?! And a new president?! THAT IS IMPORTANT!
Paragraph two, which starts with the PR ("significantly increase" its coverage by way of staff cuts) and then backs in to the substance. It's not that they're cutting four days — nearly 60 percent of the week— of publication. It's that they will have three days of "enhanced printed newspapers." What is an enhanced printed newspaper, by the way? It will have new animation, more cheat codes and weapons, and better monsters, maybe:
NOLA Media Group will significantly increase its online news-gathering efforts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while offering enhanced printed newspapers on a schedule of three days a week. The newspaper will be home-delivered and sold in stores on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only. A second new company, Advance Central Services, will print and deliver the newspaper. Both of the new companies are owned by Advance Publications.
Way down from that, we get some small acknowledgement that this "transition" might be "difficult." But, don't worry, because New Orleans is "increasingly wired." Really? I seem to remember reading something a bit different in The Lens recently.