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Advance Publications Lays Off Over 200 Employees at The Times-Picayune

Editorial staff positions at other newspapers in Alabama were also slashed in a massive round of layoffs

Ryan Smith was stony-faced when the axe fell.

The Pultizer Prize-nominated infographic designer waited in the tense newsroom of the Times-Picayune — New Orleans' newspaper of record — until he was called into an executive office and handed a severance package. 

Smith was one of more than 200 employees swept out Tuesday morning in a brutal, if expected, round of layoffs.

"It's a day that you go through with a blank stare so, that way, you don't feel any emotions," Smith told TheWrap hours after he was pink-slipped. "You're just trying to go through the day without feeling emotions because that first emotion you feel will set off a domino effect. You laugh, you cry, you don't know what the fuck to do."

Advance Publications, the Times-Picayune's parent company, reduced the staff by a third and plans to cut back the broadsheet's printing schedule from a daily to three days per week and focus on its digital news distribution.

The move to reduce print circulation and shrink the 173-person newsroom by 84 employees comes as New York-based Advance, which also Conde Nast Digital, American City Business Journals, Reddit and various other companies, attempts to pare down the operating costs of its array of media properties.

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Award-winning restaurant critic Brett Anderson, sports columnist Peter Finney and religion writer Bruce Nolan were among the more recognizable names of employees on the chopping block, according to a report in the Times-Picayune.

Anderson, who previously announced his intention to accept a prestigious fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, told the Washington Post's Erik Wemple that he was laid off because of his scholarly pursuit.

Advance Publications did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

The original decision to cut back the 177-year-old newspaper's printing schedule drew the ire of local residents, many of whom petitioned online to "Save the Picayune," a campaign that garnered more than 3,350 Facebook fans as of Tuesday afternoon.

"It's not good for the city, obviously," said Smith, 27. "I was more concerned for the overall city and just how things would play out in the future."

Advance's newspapers in three major cities in Alabama also saw massive staff cuts, with roughly 60 percent of the Birmingham News' editorial staff being laid off, according to an unnamed insider who spoke to Poynter.