A bill filed this week by state Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard, Independent of Thibodaux, and Sen. Rick Gallot, Democrat of Ruston, would repeal an exemption to the state Public Records Act called the "deliberative process privilege." The privilege protects deliberative (or pre-decisional) communications within the governor's office — though it's unclear just what is meant by "deliberative" and "governor's office."
The privilege has recently been applied to requests for (1A) records that were submitted after a state policy decision was made, (1B) records of communications that (arguably) themselves took place after a policy decision was made and (2) records from any executive agency, not just the Office of the Governor.
From our earlier coverage:
The News-Star attempted to confirm [Louisiana Department of Education Superintendent John] White's remarks by filing a public records request for internal DOE emails, specifically those "regarding phases included in the process for school approval for the Louisiana Scholarship program." A copy of the request was provided to Gambit by News-Star attorney William McNew.
The department did not hand over the requested emails.
After the paper published an editorial excoriating the state for its lack of transparency, White responded, claiming DOE was not obligated to produce the records because of something called the "deliberative process privilege," an exemption to the Louisiana Public Records Law that Jindal rammed through the Legislature in 2009 over the objections of the state's largest newspapers. White claimed in his letter that the privilege, which critics say applies only to the governor's office, "protects documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated."
(More after the jump)
Most important, each king cake conceals a bite-size figurine, usually of a baby that traditionally represents Jesus. (The year after Katrina, Haydel’s Bakery made them in the shape of a FEMA trailer.) Whoever finds the baby in his slice has to hold the next party and buy the next cake — thus, the continuity of king cake season is preserved. “My mama would get so mad at us if we got the baby,” Mr. Henry said, smiling as he remembered his childhood in the Lower Ninth Ward. “King cake was expensive back then.”
It's a really nice story with some fine observations, but it's not a New Orleans story unless there's one tiny quibble, and it comes over the description of Charles Mary and Charlotte McGehee, who run Debbie Does Doberge:
The pair are just the kind of young, endearingly single-minded food entrepreneurs commonly spotted in Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., who carry a torch for tradition but yearn to express their creative urges.
New Orleans has always had those people, long before the first Bushwick beard was grown or the first wacky vegan doughnut was fried. They may not be glamorous, self-promoting, young, attractive or white; they may have gone unnoticed by the national media until just recently; but, yeah, they've always been here.
It’s a bittersweet laurel for the T-P, which laid off nine of the 20 people involved with the story during its cutbacks last year — including managing editors Dan Shea and Peter Kovacs, graphics artist Ryan Smith, photographer Scott Threlkeld and reporter Jonathan Tilove (who is now at the Austin American-Statesman). Reporter Cindy Chang, whose byline appeared on most of the stories, now covers immigration and ethnic issues for the Los Angeles Times.
In an email, Shea told Gambit, “The work done by Cindy and her colleagues represents the best of what the Picayune used to be. It is tragic that while we were doing the final editing and designing to put the series in the paper, the secret meetings had begun to shift the emphasis of the newsroom to short online updates and sports and entertainment coverage. There are serious and talented journalists left at the Picayune, but they will face an uphill battle to try to do this type of work again.”
Chang told Gambit that part of the prize money received by the team will be donated to DashThirtyDash, the assistance fund for laid-off T-P employees.
Also set to be honored at the award ceremony next month: reporter, part-time New Orleanian and Treme creator David Simon, for his contribution to criminal justice journalism.
If The Times-Picayune was anticipating a negative piece about the paper's cutbacks on tonight's 60 Minutes — and it seemed like it was — it really had nothing to fear. Morley Safer's report — most of which was taped months ago — was a breezy, evenhanded look at the "digital transition" at the new NOLA Media Group.
It focused on New Orleans tradition both real and manufactured (beignets! Camellia Grill! conventioneer second-lines on Royal Street!) and made only general reference to the woes of the newspaper industry as a whole (no hard facts or figures), as well as glossing over last summer's protests against the paper's cutback. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, The New York Times' David Carr and T-P editor Jim Amoss were featured prominently, along with former T-P advisory board member Anne Milling (Milling stepped down quietly months ago), former columnist Lolis Eric Elie and Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
Safer made mention of the digital divide separating New Orleans' poor and disenfranchised communities, but they had no voice in the story. Also missing: the voices of the leaders of the protest against the paper's cutback, as well as former employees and groups like DashThirtyDash, the Times-Picayune Employee Assistance Fund.
What did you think of 60 Minutes' report?
As the year wraps up, we will be updating several stories from 2012. In Parts I and II: Alex Woodward reported on the arson fire at the offices of Women With a Vision, as well as developments on Freret Street.
In Part III:
Throughout the year, Kevin Allman reported on the changes at The Times-Picayune and its online arm, NOLA.com, as the two became a new company, NOLA Media Group, under the watch of new publisher Ricky Mathews.
The Dec. 17 resignation of Lynn Cunningham, The Times-Picayune’s online editor — a veteran of the paper since 1977 and the right hand of editor Jim Amoss — was the cap on the paper’s most dramatic year in recent history as it launched into what was euphemistically known as “the digital transition.”
The website The Daily Meal decided to turn the tables on America's culinary pontificators and let chefs and restaurateurs grade some of the nation's most preeminent critics:
For this, our first annual critics' scorecard, The Daily Meal polled dozens of the nation’s most notable chefs and restaurateurs and asked them to vote on America's best known critics. Twenty critics were rated on a restaurant review scale of zero to four stars (four being a glowing review) based on four criteria: culinary knowledge, prose style, integrity (perceived), and likability. Even better, participants could actually critique critics and writers. Yes, anonymity was granted to the chefs and restaurateurs who responded to our questions, but they're all elite industry figures, and most are household names.
So how did local food critic Brett Anderson fare? Sort of meh — placing No. 12 out of 20 of the nation's top restaurant reviewers, a score low enough that the Daily Meal called it "surprising."
Another salvo in the newspaper wars: The Advocate's New Orleans edition will launch a new entertainment tabloid, "Beaucoup," this Thursday, along with a community-news broadsheet.
Both will be edited by Annette Sisco, one of the many former Times-Picayune employees who were hired by The Advocate for its new New Orleans bureau earlier this fall. Neither Sisco nor bureau chief Sara Pagones returned calls about the sections.
"Beaucoup" will go head-to-head (one day earlier) with The Times-Picayune's longtime Friday "Lagniappe" tab. Like "Lagniappe," "Beaucoup" will cover arts and the New Orleans food scene, as well as containing calendar listings.
Both papers are now looking at January to make final moves into their new homes in New Orleans — The Times-Picayune's parent company, NOLA Media Group, is finishing renovations on the top floors of the One Canal Place office building overlooking the Mississippi River, while The Advocate's New Orleans edition is building out space in the CBD.
A few interesting news items:
Last week I wrote a little bit about the Vera Pretrial Services budget controversy, specifically critics' comparison of the program to the Philadelphia Pretrial Services Division. Independent journalist Zoe Sullivan has since done an interview with Orleans Parish First Assistant District Attorney Graymond Martin, who speaks at length about pretrial services. Martin, who used to represent the commercial bail industry, responds to that industry's criticism of the program.
Also, The Lens' Tyler Bridges has a story on the Jindal administration's use of the "deliberative process privilege" to shield public records. Bridges interviews a few state legislators who suggest the privilege may face a challenge during next year's legislative session.
Finally, the Times-Picayune has been doing fantastic work following up on allegations that Grand Isle Shipyard, which employed some of the people aboard the Black Elk energy platform that caught fire last week, has been mistreating workers brought here from the Philippines.
Yesterday, the T-P posted a story in which Grand Isle president Mark Pregeant gives Richard Thompson a tour of the company's Galliano bunkhouse.
Pregeant's court statement on the bunkhouse, filed in federal court last July.
Statements from the plaintiff workers, filed in response to Pregeant's statement
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