Knight Center
Knight Center


"Digital-first" model means layoffs of 600 newspaper employees in New Orleans, Alabama

On Tuesday, June 12, 600 newspaper employees were laid off in New Orleans and Alabama -- and no, that's not a record, reported Poynter, illustrating just how deeply troubled the newspaper industry is as cuts are made to compensate for declining ad revenue and circulation resulting from readers' transition from print to the Internet.

According to Poynter, the Gannett chain laid off 700 newspaper workers on June 21, 2011, and offered buyouts to 665 employees in February of this year. In November 2011, Booth Newspapers announced 543 layoffs, and in 2009, McClatchy announced 1,600 upcoming layoffs as it reduced its staff by 15 percent. And finally, in one week in June 2008, 900 newspaper employees lost their jobs.

The layoffs at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Advance Publications' newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, Ala., are part of a digital-first strategy in which the newspapers announced they are cutting back on their print editions in order to focus on web production.

Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism review worried that gutting the newsrooms and implementing a "hamster wheel" business model where reporters turn out quantity, not quality, means that Advance Publications "is disinvesting in journalism behind a digital smokescreen."

Similarly, writing for the Atlantic, John McQuaid questioned what happens if "downsizing degrades a newspaper's relationship with its community, and with it those last sources of journalistic strength?" Come this fall, New Orleans will be the largest U.S. city without a daily printed newspaper, and a website focused on clicks, rather than on journalism, cannot replace a quality newspaper, McQuaid wrote. "As diminished news operations migrate to the web, without a commitment from owners to their communities, and to news and journalism innovation, they will find it harder to cover the stuff that needs covering, to investigate and hold public officials to account."

1 comment

Mark Loundy wrote 5 years 44 weeks ago

Digital First and The Times-Picayune

Ham-handed cost cutting slapped with the fashionable "digital first" nametag is hardly a strategy. Other companies – notably the aptly named Digital First Media – are approaching this in a considered and thoughtful manner with the emphasis on improving the product.
What happened on Tuesday was more of a "drowning swimmer" approach.

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