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Monday, July 9, 2012

Times-Picayune Citizens' Group formally asks Newhouse family to sell the paper

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 5:42 PM

A Save the Picayune sign in a Mid-City window.
  • A "Save the Picayune" sign in a Mid-City window.
One month ago, the Times-Picayune Citizens' Group asked the Newhouse family, which owns Advance Publications and The Times-Picayune, to reconsider its plans to become a largely digital company, turning The T-P into a three-times-weekly paper in October.

That was received dismissively by Steven Newhouse, chairman of, who told The New York Times, "We have no intention of selling, no matter how much noise there is out there" — so today the group delivered a second letter.

Sent via FedEx to 22 members of the Newhouse family, it asks the Newhouse family to sell the paper outright. A source with knowledge of the letter's composition tells Gambit that the demand to seel isn't just loose talk, but that the Citizens' Group — which includes some of the city's most powerful and wealthy citizens — has lined up a potential buyer for The Times-Picayune.

A copy of the letter — which was not sent to Times-Picayune executives — was forwarded to editors at the paper this morning from Si Newhouse, the family patriarch and chairman and CEO of Advance Publications. It arrived on the day that David Newhouse — who left his position as editor of the family's Patriot-News earlier this year to join the Advance Digital arm of his family's company — arrived in New Orleans for meetings with T-P editors and new NOLA Media Group president Ricky Mathews.

(David Newhouse, like Mathews, apparently is fond of staying at the Windsor Court Hotel — where a "Save the Picayune" lawn sign, like the one pictured above in a Mid-City window, was delivered to him today — gift-wrapped.)

"In the end, we fear our community has already made its judgment on the three-day publication plan and the damage already realized cannot be undone," the letter states. "But the relationship between your family and our community does not have to end sourly. If your family does not believe in the future of this great city and its capacity to support a daily newspaper, it is only fair to allow us to find someone who does."

The letter's signatories: Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Gayle and Tom Benson, Ralph Brennan, James Carville, Tulane University president Scott Cowen, Xavier University president Norman Francis, Archie Manning, Wynton Marsalis, Mary Matalin, Wendell Pierce, Cokie and Steven Roberts and Loyola University president Kevin Wildes. (One absent name: Women of the Storm founder Anne Milling, who has been a leader in the Save the Picayune movement and still sits on the paper's advisory board.)

Under the jump: the complete letter to the Newhouse family (with a list of the family addressees), along with a secondary attachment with the names of local civic organizations opposed to the business plan ...

TO: Robyn A. Newhouse, Mark Newhouse, Peter C. Newhouse, Jonathan E. Newhouse, David Newhouse, Si Newhouse Jr., Pamela Newhouse Mensch, Joseph Mensch, Samuel Newhouse III, Samuel Newhouse IV, Donald Newhouse, Katherine N. Mele, Michael Newhouse, Steven O. Newhouse, Julie B. Lobel, Amy B. Bermant-Adler, Robert J. Miron, Steven A. Miron, Nomi Bergman, Caroline D. Harrison, Alison Levasseur and Richard E. Diamond Jr.:

Dear ______ :

Nearly a half century ago, your family invested in the future of New Orleans by purchasing our daily newspapers. Norman Newhouse came to New Orleans, raised a family here, and was welcomed by our community.

Your family has been a blessing to our city. You built one of the greatest local newspapers in the United States, became one of our most respected employers, grew with us as our people spread out across seven parishes, and stood selflessly with the citizens of New Orleans when a vicious storm knocked us down.

In return, our city has supported your family. The Times-Picayune, a recipient of four Pulitzer awards, likes to boast that it has the best readership of any major metropolitan market. And that makes us proud too, because it shows how our community is loyal, engaged and dedicated to civic discourse. In other cities, newspapers were hemorrhaging money but The Times-Picayune remained profitable and loyal to the employees who have served New Orleans so well.

Unfortunately and sadly, the considerable goodwill your family enterprise has created in New Orleans in the last 50 years has dissipated in just a few short months because of the decision that took our entire community by surprise. Advance Publications and its leadership have lost the trust and credibility of a significant segment of the community. Citizens have publically protested the proposed new format; prominent civic and business leaders and advertisers have stepped up to speak out against the plan, and an online petition is climbing toward 10,000 signatures, including celebrities like Ed Asner and Garrison Keillor and ordinary New Orleanians whose comments are a tribute to the towering impact of the newspaper you built. Clearly, the voices of our community are strongly opposed to what you are doing.

It is painful to report that right now it is nearly impossible to find a kind word in these parts about your family or your plan to take away our daily newspaper. Our community leaders believe that your decision is undermining the important work we continue to face in rebuilding New Orleans. Whether you intended to or not, you have already created the impression that our recovery is so tepid that we cannot support an important civic institution like a daily newspaper.

In the end, we fear our community has already made its judgment on the three-day publication plan and the damage already realized cannot be undone. But the relationship between your family and our community does not have to end sourly. If your family does not believe in the future of this great city and its capacity to support a daily newspaper, it is only fair to allow us to find someone who does.

If you have ever valued the friendship you have shared with our city and your loyal readers, we ask that you sell the Times-Picayune. Our city wants a daily printed paper, needs a daily printed paper and deserves a daily printed paper.


The following civic and business organizations support the continuation of the delivery of a high-quality, seven-day-a-week newspaper, with access to the entire community.

Bureau of Governmental Research
Burtheville Association of Neighbors
Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region
Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans
Faubourg Delachaise Neighborhood Association
Faubourg Marengo Neighborhood Association
FirstLine Schools
The Foundation for Historical Louisiana
French Quarter Business Association
French Quarter Citizens, Inc.
French Quarter Management District
Global Green New Orleans
GNO, Inc. NextGen Council
Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association
Greater New Orleans, Inc.
Gulf Coast Bank and Trust Company
Historic Faubourg Treme Association
The Idea Village
Irish Channel Neighborhood Association
Jefferson Business Council
Jefferson Chamber of Commerce
Jefferson Council on Aging, Inc.
Jefferson Economic Development Corporation
Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, Inc.
Junior League of New Orleans
Lafayette Square Association
League of Women Voters of St. Tammany
Louisiana Children's Museum
The Louisiana Health Access Network
Louisiana Landmarks Society
The Louisiana Medicare Rx Access Network
The Louisiana Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Louisiana Restaurant Association
The Louisiana Women's Network
Lower 9th Ward Stakeholder Coalition
Metropolitan Crime Commission
National Council of Jewish Women, New Orleans Section
New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity
New Orleans Business Alliance
New Orleans Chamber of Commerce
New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau
New Orleans Council on Aging
New Orleans Crime Coalition
New Orleans League of Women Voters
New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network
New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute
NOCCA - New Orleans Center for Creative Arts
Northshore Business Council
Ochsner Health System
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry
Preservation Resource Center
River Parishes Community College
River Region Chamber of Commerce
Rotary Club of New Orleans
Saint Charles Avenue Association
Second Harvest Food Bank
Smart Growth for Louisiana
The Southeast Regional Coalition of Business Councils
St. Bernard Parish Chamber Of Commerce
Urban League of Greater New Orleans
Vieux Carré Property Owners, Residents, and Associates, Inc.
Women of the Storm
The Women's Health Access Project
Young Leadership Council

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