New Orleans, without a daily newspaper

The 'Times Picayune,' in tough times ()
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The Newhouse-owned Times-Picayune confirmed early Thursday that it plans to scale back its print edition to three days a week under the auspices of a newly-formed, "digitally focused" company called the NOLA Media Group.

Here's how they're spinning it in an unbylined article on the Times-Picayune's website:

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.

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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 decision to form a new company signals a change in the way news is delivered to an increasingly wired New Orleans area audience.

David Carr, who broke the news on The New York Times' Media Decoder blog, reported late Wednesday night that "large staff cuts" were looming and three of the paper's top editors were on the way out.

A few hours later, New Orleans alt-weekly The Gambit quantified the reduction, reporting that the newsroom would be slashed by roughly a third "from 150 to 100 or fewer reporters."

"Tonight, in private homes, on porches and at least one bar, employees of The Times-Picayune gathered to collectively absorb the shock of a New York Times report that the paper is about to undergo a massive restructuring that will leave New Orleans without a daily published newspaper," wrote The Gambit's Kevin Allman (emphasis his).

It's a crushing blow to a paper that became a symbol of survival and resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, during which its staff hunkered down to produce Pulitzer-winning journalism. But there is an irony there, too: The Katrina coverage, for the first few days, was all on the web, since the paper's printing press had lost power.

The new Times-Picayune model follows a format that Newhouse Newspapers employed when it reduced the publication schedule of Michigan's Ann Arbor News, replacing the paper with a thrice-weekly print edition called AnnArbor.com.

Over at Forbes, former New York Times Detroit bureau chief and Ann Arbor resident Micheline Maynard offers a little insight into what New Orleans residents can expect.

"No offense to its staff, but AnnArbor.com, online at least, is a constantly updated blog, which gives equal play to impaled cyclists and rabid skunks as it does to politics and crime," she writes. "The printed edition is newspaper-like, but with a different style and less gravitas than its predecessor."

It's hard to imagine, just seven years after Hurricane Katrina made the Times-Picayune the most important newspaper in America, that New Orleans will now have to live without it.

In other news...

Conde Nast's content strategy moving forward will involve bundled subscriptions and "branded experiences." [W.W.D.]

Ratings-starved CNN plots a "revised course." [TV Newser]

On the trend of rich people investing in newspapers again. [Poynter]

The story behind HuffPost's "Power Breakfast Paparazzi." [The New York Observer]

Rupert Murdoch's latest headache. [A.P.]