Times Picayune changes have government officials scrambling

Copy of Times Picayune Newspaper at newsstand.
Copy of Times Picayune Newspaper at newsstand.

New Orleans, La.—The planned cutbacks at the Times Picayune are causing headaches for some state lawmakers and city government.

City Hall relies on the newspaper as its official journal for important public notices. As such, the newspaper publishes notices about elections, city auctions, and public hearings, among other items.

But in the fall the Times Picayune will beginning publishing a paper only three days a week: Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

"It's got unintended consequences, right, and it's going to change how a lot of us do business if they go forward with three day a week publishing," Mayor Mitch Landrieu stated.

The Times Picayune is the city's only 7 days a week newspaper.

"It's really important that we be able to communicate with the public about what it is that we're doing," Landrieu continued.

The approaching reality of the changes has state lawmakers scrambling during the waning days of the legislative session because current state law says the publisher of the city's notices must be a daily newspaper.

State Senator J.P Morrell, D-New Orleans, and others are frantically working to have the law amended to prevent major problems for city hall.

"We're going to remove the daily language from the legislation," Morrell stated.

He said their back is against the wall because no one expected that the Times Picayune would be scaling back the printing of its publication. The legislation modification would be a temporary step.

"This is just triage for between now and next [legislative] session," Sen. Morrell continued.

The City Council's Chief of Staff, Evelyn Pugh, said the council tries to publish many of its notices on Fridays, one of the three days the paper will continue to be published. But other city departments and agencies use various days.

"We're really under the gun…We're just trying to make sure the city is not deprived of a journal to publish our judicial notices," stated Morrell.

Clearly the city is hoping the owners of the newspaper will change their minds.

"I've reached out to the ownership, and to the new publisher and I told them how important the Times Picayune is for us, you know, New Orleans sees itself as a big league city," said Landrieu.

At the Louisiana and Mississippi Associations of Broadcasters Convention, the newspaper bombshell was a hot topic. Landrieu mentioned it during a speech to the attendees.

"Obviously, with the Times Picayune changing that's a sad day for everybody in New Orleans because it's been such a factor," said Dick Lewis, Chairman of the Board for the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters.

Still, Lewis who is with Clear Channel Radio, does not think the digital revolution which is causing the newspaper to expend more of its resources on its website is bad news for other mediums like radio and television outlets.

"We will not become obsolete any more than when colored television came, we adjusted and moved forward," Lewis stated.

Senator Morrell said he is hoping the amendments to the current law can be approved by both houses of the legislature by Friday. The session must end by June 4.