NOLA Media Group (NMG), parent company of The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, will be moving out of its home at the top of One Canal Place and into its own street-level building in the Warehouse District. Management notified employees of the move Tuesday morning, and the newspaper published a story about the move that afternoon.
The company moved into the high-rise building amid much fanfare in December 2012 under the leadership of then-publisher Ricky Mathews, who had been chosen by Advance Media, owners of The Times-Picayune, to bring the paper into what was called the "digital transition." At the time, Mathews told The Wall Street Journal, "The owners wanted us to be in a space that could make a statement," and in a public meeting with New Orleans' tech community, he boasted the offices would have a "Google-Nike kind of vibe." (While NOLA.com employees enjoyed the prime view, some complained about the lack of mobility that came with the location, and cellphone service on the 32nd floor has been spotty at best since day one.)
"It's a beautiful space with the best views in the city," NMG president Tim Williamson told Gambit, "but I think that it was a little disconnected from the community. There's a better way to foster collaboration, and I really want to make a better opportunity to connect to the community. I think a media company should be connected at ground level."
The decampment erases what may be the last physical vestige of Mathews' leadership since he stepped down and was replaced by Williamson last year.
[jump] NMG had "I think, about seven years left" on its One Canal Place lease, Williamson said. The space will be taken over by the tech company Lucid. (The company also is opening a new hub in Covington to consolidate its Northshore coverage; Williamson said that building will be open by the end of the month or by early January.)
While some at NOLA.com say their current space is now a bit too large for the staff on hand, the new NMG headquarters at 864 S. Peters St. is substantially smaller; it will encompass less than one-third of the space at One Canal Place:
Williamson acknowledged the new downtown space will be smaller - roughly 8,200 square feet compared with 26,000 square feet at One Canal Place. He said the Warehouse District location makes more efficient use of space and aligns with the organization's long-term mission of "spreading out" its footprint across the region, including the new 3,000-square-foot St. Tammany Parish office.
"We're making strategic decisions to preserve locally produced journalism," Williamson said.
The size of the new newsroom has some NOLA.com employees concerned that another downsizing may be on the horizon in 2018 - as did a letter last month from Advance Local CEO Randy Siegel,which said, in part
, "We will respond better and more nimbly to needs in the markets. We’ll look for more and different ways to generate revenue, as well as operational efficiencies."
Like many daily and weekly papers around the country, as well as news websites, The Times-Picayune has seen buyouts and layoffs in recent years - around 200 people famously were let go in 2012 under Mathews' "digital transition." In 2015, "28 full-time and nine part-time content staffers" also were fired, a move the company called "restructuring its news operation to reinforce its core journalistic mission."
[content-1]There are "over 100" employees currently in the One Canal Place newsroom, Williamson said.
What about the possibility of layoffs or buyouts? "Nothing is planned. We have no plans at this point [for layoffs]," Williamson said. "This move was more strategic - a unique opportunity to connect with the community."
In recent months, several high-profile NOLA.com reporters have left the company. Ken Daley, NOLA.com's criminal justice reporter, left to be a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office, and Jed Lipinski, who covered public health and criminal justice, now is pursuing a freelance career;his website says
he now is head investigative reporter on a TV documentary about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.
Danielle Dreilinger, who covered schools (as well as livetweeting the meeting of Rex and Comus each Mardi Gras), is on a yearlong sabbatical under the Knight-Wallace Fellowship program at the University of Michigan.
Longtime metro and politics reporter Richard Rainey also has departed NOLA.com.