Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A letter to Newhouse

From jimromenesko.com,
an email sent late Sunday from outgoing Times Picayune report Kari Dequine Harden.

“Gonna try to move forward and find something to believe in again. Not that he gives a rat’s ass, but I decided I would let Steve Newhouse know my reasons for an early departure.”

Dear Mr. Newhouse,

Today is the day I jump off of your sinking ship once known proudly as The Times-Picayune.

I thought I’d be able to go down with it, but I don’t even recognize the ship anymore. Without being held hostage by severance, benefits, or much of a paycheck, I’m drowning for no good reason.

I have no desire to work for bosses who treat their hardworking, dedicated, and irreplaceable employees in the unforgivable manner I have witnessed firsthand over the past three months.

You have betrayed my most esteemed colleagues, my city, my belief in journalism, and my belief in people.

No numbers, statistical trends, academic theories, or self-serving editorials and articles will make me buy the argument that this is the inevitable way of the future. Not here. Not now. Not in this way.

Need I remind you we were profitable? This paper had good years left in it. Great years. Adjustments may have been necessary, I realize, but I will never believe this is all happening because The Times-Picayune could not have survived if you left us alone just as you had done for decades prior.

We would have found a way. And made you a profit the entire time.

Or, there were serious buyers with serious cash who would have taken over. You could have just sold us. But again and again, you refuse. Why? Are you planning on writing us off as a loss? Would that serve your unbridled greed in some sort of inheritance tax scheme? Is our website intentionally horrid?

To have a once respectable, reliable news source taken away so that billionaires can try to squeeze out a few more millions at the expense of a city’s well-being is criminal.

If you do not know what you are taking away, allow me to remind you.

From New Orleans, a city already with odds against, you are taking our historical record. You are taking away a source of news that has been relied upon to document it all–magnificent and mundane–and to hold police and publicly elected officials accountable. This city is worse off for the loss. We will struggle, new sources will emerge and serve the city in positive ways–but do not for a second think that this isn’t a devastating blow to everyone. Competition included.

Some of things we covered were tedious, painful, and marginalized–but important. The present, history, and future of our city are at stake. And in a city facing significant challenges–from ingrained corruption and the highest per-capita murder rate in the country, to environmental armageddon and crumbling infrastructure–we need to read every detail. Every dollar of taxpayer money spent. Every issue. Every day. And to hear it from people who are experienced and have the best interests of the city at heart.

From us, you are not just taking away jobs, you are taking away identities. Purpose. Role in community.

This is not a job that you can leave at the office. We gave up our name, our neck. And we loved our jobs because we believed we genuinely contributed to a more informed, educated, and enlightened society.

From journalism as an industry, you are taking a gem of a newspaper that was respected, read–in print!–and, yes, profitable. Changes may have been in our future, but nothing like this. This paper had soul and heart and traditions and devotion. We were not perfect, and I believe fully in healthy competition, but we were usually decent, often good, and sometimes great. It was a newsroom of an era past, full of characters and quirks and curiosity and gray-haired grouches. There was passion. And humor. Ego, for the most part, was checked at the door.

You have made it abundantly clear that you do not care about quality in journalism. You have made it abundantly clear that you do not care about New Orleans.

But remember that respect from the community–especially ours–is not something you can buy back. (Not that being respected concerns you, as made clear with the single verbal valuation of “noise.”)

You have made it most definitely clear that you do not care about quality journalism in New Orleans. I predict that within two to three years, three days of print will turn into zero days of print and there will be another massive round of back-stabbing layoffs.

I, for one, will not be buying any more newspapers from you. I will not be visiting your atrocious website.

I am eternally grateful for the experience I have gained in my time with your company, but the company I worked for no longer exists.

Signing out,
Kari Dequine
The Times-Picayune

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