by Kevin Allman
Sources within and outside The Times-Picayune told Gambit today that the paper's most visible columnist, Chris Rose, intends to take the paper's latest round of buyouts, but may continue as a contributor to the paper's Living section.
Reached by phone, Rose would neither confirm nor deny the reports, nor would he comment when asked if he was telling friends he was leaving. "I am still employed by The Times-Picayune, and I am weighing my options for the future," he said. "What's going to happen over the next couple of weeks is a matter between me, my accountant and my Visa card."
Rose, who has been at the paper for 25 years, began there as a metro reporter and became a lifestyle and entertainment columnist. After Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, his writing transitioned into a rawer, more personal account of the city and his own life as they both struggled for equilibrium. A collection of those columns, 1 Dead in Attic, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and garnered acclaim as a seminal book of post-Katrina writings. Rose's personal struggles also became news; his column about his use of antidepressants was seen as a brave admission as the city struggled to recover. His divorce was also gossip fodder, as was his October 2008 arrest on a minor charge of municipal domestic violence.
Rose's departure from The Times-Picayune staff would follow several other high-profile writers who chose to take the paper's voluntary buyouts this year, including Rose's fellow columnist Angus Lind, veteran crime reporter Walt Philbin and theater writer David Cuthbert.
The paper's recent round of buyouts is seen as the final step before possible involuntary layoffs early next year. In August, the Newhouse chain of newspapers, which owns The Times-Picayune, announced its intention to rescind its decades-old pledge not to lay off employees due to economic circumstances. The "pledge," as it's known to Newhouse employees, will expire in February 2010. While the paper has suffered some of the same woes in recent years as most other daily papers in the United States, it has also been one of the healthier papers in the Newhouse chain -- an October 2009 report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations found the Picayune and its online arm, nola.com, to have increased its print and online audience by 7%.
Asked about his future plans, Rose would only say, "I am not leaving New Orleans."