by Kevin Allman
A draft of the letter and a brief story about the group have been posted on nola.com by the T-P's Jaquetta White, but Michael Hecht, president of the group GNO Inc., says a final version with a complete list of signatories will be issued before this afternoon's "Save the Picayune" rally at Rock 'n' Bowl at 4 p.m.
Among those whose names were attached to the draft: Tulane University president Scott Cowen, Women of the Storm founder Anne Milling; and legendary restaurateur Leah Chase (profiled two weeks ago in a Gambit cover story). In the draft statement, Chase said, ""I can and have accepted change in my life. But I do not think this is a good change. ... For people my age, this will be a terrible loss.”
Many employees at The Times-Picayune are uncertain about attending this afternoon's rally, citing newsroom policy regarding off-hours attendance at rallies. Others have speculated about possible punitive measures from Advance Publications at a time when their jobs are on the line. The rally, which will be held tailgate-style, will feature entertainment by Kermit Ruffins, Allen Touissant, the Iguanas and other local musicians, and is open to the public from 4 p.m. till sunset.EDITED TO ADD: Below the jump: The final version of the letter, with signatories. Times-Picayune Citizens’ Group Speaks out on Proposed Changes to The Times-Picayune NEW ORLEANS — A group of concerned civic and business leaders have come together in the wake of the recent announcement by the owners of The Times-Picayune to move to a three-day a week print version in addition to the current web-based nola.com product. The group’s purpose is to ensure the continuation of the delivery of a high quality, seven-day-a-week newspaper, with access to the entire community. The group intends to open discussions with the current owners as well as other interested parties to achieve its purpose. Citing the unique New Orleans regional landscape, which has steadily and successfully rebuilt itself since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to become a beacon for economic resilience and innovation, the group is reviewing all options and opportunities to influence the current plans, as is consistent with desires of the papers’ customers and wider community. As the daily news vehicle, The Times-Picayune has represented the Greater New Orleans community for more than 175 years, serving three critical functions: ensuring news access for all citizens; providing serious coverage that protects the public; and, creating a common conversation and cultural cohesion amongst all New Orleanians. With this history and service in mind, the Citizens Group believes that it is important to clearly state its desire for The Times-Picayune to remain a daily newspaper, and that any possible future change be conducted in a more effective and considerate transition than what was announced to take effect beginning in September. “In the next several years, the city will host an unprecedented amount of national and international visitors and media, including the NFL Super Bowl, NCAA Women’s Final Four, NBA All-Star game, commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and celebration of the city’s 300th birthday,” said Scott Cowen, president of Tulane University. “These events, along with the downtown opening of two new $1 billion-plus hospitals, deserve a more robust approach to news delivery.” “Now is not the time to switch suddenly to a three-day a week publication,” stated Anne Milling, Founder of Women of the Storm. “A daily Times-Picayune has been the backbone of the community in our post-Katrina environment and provides the foundation for all civic dialogue and discourse. It is our hope that the owners will respect the voices and desires of the community which has been so loyal to the printed newspaper for generations.” “I can and have accepted change in my life. But I do not think this is a good change,” said Leah Chase, Chef at Dooky Chase. “People like Sheila Stroup, Judy Walker, Doug MacCash, and Brett Anderson provide me with information about the things I love, and I can relate to what they write about. For people my age, this will be a terrible loss.” “New Orleans was recently named the ‘#1 Fastest Improving Economy in the Nation’ by the Wall Street Journal,” said Michael Hecht, President & CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “The drastic reduction of our paper is not only inconsistent with this economic renaissance, it also sends a negative – and erroneous – message to the rest of the world about our resurgent community’s viability.” Signed, Times-Picayune Citizens’ Group (Full list still being compiled) Jay Altman Chief Executive Officer FirstLine Schools Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond Archbishop of New Orleans Jerry Bologna Deputy Director Jefferson Economic Development Corporation John Barry Kent Blackwell President Burtheville Association of Neighbors Ralph Brennan James Carville and Mary Matalin Tod Chambers, President Mavis Early, Executive Director Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association Henry Coaxum Chairman New Orleans Business Alliance Michael Cowan Chair New Orleans Crime Coalition Scott Cowen President Tulane University Flozell Daniels, Jr. President & CEO Foundation for Louisiana Norman Francis President Xavier University of Louisiana Ruthie Frierson Founder & Chairman Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans Melissa Gibbs, Chair Tommy Faucheux, Vice-Chair GNO, Inc. NextGen Council Leon Giorgio Chairman Jefferson Business Council Rafael C. Goyeneche III President Metropolitan Crime Commission Julie Graybill President Faubourg Marengo Neighborhood Association Stan Harris President & CEO Louisiana Restaurant Association Michael Hecht, President & CEO Dale Benoit, Chairman Greater New Orleans, Inc. William H. Hines Walter Isaacson Tamara Jackson Executive Director SilenceIsViolence Leslie Jacobs Ben Johnson President & CEO New Orleans Chamber of Commerce John Little Chairman New Orleans Regional Leadership Insititute Dr. James E. Lyons, Sr. Interim President Dillard University Nancy Marsiglia Chassity McComack Executive Director River Region Chamber of Commerce Ed McGinnis Treasurer Irish Channel Neighborhood Association Reid McLellan Chairman Plaquemines Association of Business and Industry Suzanne Mestayer Chair Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region Anne Milling Founder Women of the Storm Todd Murphy President Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Thom Pepper Chair Lower 9th Ward Stakeholder Coalition Stephen Perry President & CEO New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau Wendell Pierce Debby Pigman President Faubourg Delachaise Neighborhood Association Dr. Patrick Quinlan, Chief Executive Officer Warner Thomas, President & CEO Ochsner Health System Larry Rase Executive Director Northshore Business Council Julia Reed Stephen Reuther Chief Executive Officer St. Bernard Parish Chamber Of Commerce Charles Rice President & CEO Entergy New Orleans, Inc. Toni Rice President New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network Howard Rodgers Executive Director New Orleans Council on Aging Nolan V. Rollins President & CEO Urban League of Greater New Orleans Greg Rusovich Chairman The Southeast Regional Coalition of Business Councils Harry Shearer Nick Spitzer Mark Vicknair Dr. Thomas R. Warner Chancellor Nunez Community College Dr. Joe Welch Chancellor River Parishes Community College Alyssa Wenck President Young Leadership Council Brandy Whisnant Secretary Junior League of New Orleans Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., Ph.D. President Loyola University New Orleans Tim Williamson Co-Founder & CEO The Idea Village 504ward The Foundation for Historical Louisiana French Quarter Citizens, Inc. Lafayette Square Association Louisiana Landmarks Society Smart Growth for Louisiana Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates, Inc. Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipients 1992 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Diana Lewis 1995 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Anne Milling 1997 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Leah Chase 1999 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Herschel L. Abbot Jr. 2000 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Alden McDonald 2003 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Fran Villere 2006 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Ruthie Frierson 2007 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Bob Brown 2008 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient R. King Milling 2009 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Scott Cowen 2010 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient Tommy S. Cvitanovich 2011 Times-Picayune Loving Cup Recipient WIlliam Goldring