I noticed the first wanted poster on my way to Fleurty Girl to buy a “Save The Picayune: Don’t Let Bylines be Bygones” t-shirt. Stewart had already given me one of Mignon Faget’s little silver TP pins, backed by a twist of newsprint and black ribbon.
The sepia-toned, Old West announcement had been taped inside the glass front door of Pack Rat, where my mutt Lucy gets a dog treat whenever I stop in to mail a package.
“WANTED: Ricky Mathews, for unnecessary slaying of Times-Picayune staff”
New Orleanians are so delightfully satirical, I thought.
A slew of the wanted posters popped up over the weekend in windows and on posts around town – the latest salvo in a growing battle to bolster the 201 Times-Picayune employees who were fired last week in a digitally-oriented reorganization of the newspaper.
Last week, dashTHIRTYdash, a fund for the TP nearly departed, was set up by colleagues across the country. The Contemporary Arts Center stepped up to act as fiduciary agent, lending its 501(c)3 non-profit status to the effort.
Soon dashTHIRTYdash.org had been launched online as well. The name comes from the -30- notation that journalists traditionally put at the end of a story. It also was the Facebook posting used by many Times-Picayune employees last week to indicate they had received severance notices.
Why -30-? According to the American Journalism Review, it may stem from the fact that “30” in telegraphic shorthand signified the end of a transmission. Or that, in the days stories were written in longhand, X marked the end of a sentence, XX the end of a paragraph, and XXX (30 in Roman numerals) the end of a story.
At any rate, the swell of support for legacy journalists at the TP is far from cresting. Mignon Faget is donating 10 percent from the sale of her pins to the assistance fund, and the jewelry designer herself turned up at a “Last Dance for the Picayune” party on Saturday night. Pure Cake sent a cake with “-30-” emblazoned on top in black icing, and Sucre sent signature chocolates.
In an ongoing show of support, 20 percent of all “Save the Picayune” signature cocktails at each of the five Ralph Brennan restaurants is going to the dashTHIRTYdash fund. A week ago, Ralph’s on the Park hosted a number of Times-Picayune staffers, providing them with complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
The Times-PIcayune Citizen’s Group, composed of civic and business leaders dedicated to saving a daily paper in New Orleans, continues to gain momentum, with a number of advertisers joining the group last week. And an online petition to save the Picayune at change.org had reached 8,397 signatures by Sunday evening. Among notables who have signed: Garry Trudeau, actor Ed Asner (aka newspaper editor “Lou Grant”), “Prairie Home Companion’s” Garrison Keillor, journalist Linda Ellebee, author Anne Rice, muscian Branford Marsalis and humorist Roy Blount Jr.
Individuals, too, are looking for creative ways to support both those who will stay and those who must go. One Facebook contributor offered story clicks in case pay at Nola.com is tied to readership: “My family and I will pretend we are watching ‘American Idol’ and click repeatedly!”
Meanwhile, Le Petite Grocery restaurant on Magazine Street is planning a dinner on June 26, with Irvin Mayfield on hand, to benefit dashTHIRTYdash. And The Avenue Pub is sponsoring a fundraiser on June 28, with a menu that will include a Ricky Go Home sandwich. Banners supporting the cause at the restaurant’s high-visibility balcony at Polymnia and St. Charles are coming soon.
DashTHIRTYdash organizer Rebecca Theim says benefit talks are under way as well with a historic French Quarter restaurant. “We’d definitely love to hear from other New Orleans restaurants and bars willing to donate a portion of their proceeds to the DashThirtyDash fund on any given day,” she says.
The biggest public fund-raising event is being planned for Sept. 28-29, the closing weekend of the final week of daily publication of The Times-Picayune. Many former employees reportedly plan to attend, from online news editor David Meeks in Los Angeles to Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Walt Handelsman in New York. Location and contributors are still being organized, although word is that Dear New Orleans has signed on already.
There will be a Friday evening event for TImes-Picayune staff and alums, followed by a public blowout and fund-raising bash on Saturday. Those who would like to contribute can contact Rebecca Theim at firstname.lastname@example.org (or call her at 702-622-8154).
Meanwhile, the witty ways that New Orleanians react to news that so markedly affects the community will no doubt continue to spike.
Check a telephone post near you.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie.