by Kevin Allman
Carlos Sanchez, the managing editor of NOLA Media Group's new Baton Rouge bureau, has resigned after less than six months on the job, multiple sources within the company have told Gambit.
A memo co-signed by editor Jim Amoss and the director of state news and sports, James O'Byrne, went out to NOLA Media Group staffers in the last two hours, saying Sanchez was resigning for family reasons and returning to Texas, where he wrote about politics for the Austin American-Statesman and served as editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald for several years before being let go in a Trib-Herald companywide layoff in 2011.
Sanchez was hired by NOLA Media Group last fall to helm its expanded bureau in Baton Rouge. In January, he created a stir within the company when — on the eve of President Barack Obama's second inauguration — the Baton Rouge bureau posted an online poll asking "Should we wish President Obama well in his second term?". That poll, which was the subject of dismay and some derision in the New Orleans office, where it was seen as "clickbait," has been removed from the NOLA.com site:
NOLA Media Group's Baton Rouge bureau also came under fire earlier this month in a lengthy, critical story by Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review — a story that triggered anger within the NOLA Media Group and, according to some current and past employees, a search for internal sources who may have spoken to Chittum. In tracing the changes at The Times-Picayune from a daily to a thrice-weekly publication with a digital focus, Chittum wrote:
The Baton Rouge bureau, under the purview of James O’Byrne, the former NOLA.com editor, is widely viewed internally as an embarrassment. The second sentence of one November story’s lede would be hard to imagine in a high-school paper: “Fortunately for the citizens of the Red Stick, local law enforcement continue to team up with state legislators and federal agencies to ensure stricter drug enforcement laws and regulations make it onto the books.”
Today's memo from O'Byrne and Amoss said that NOLA Media Group would be undertaking a national search to replace Sanchez. A call to NOLA Media Group's Baton Rouge office was not immediately returned.
(UPDATE: Sanchez has posted a farewell letter, saying, in part, "In the end, it came down to leaving one of the boldest experiments in American journalism today in favor of my family, still living in Texas. In short, there was no choice." He also praises the head of Baton Rouge's Downtown Development District.)