NEW ORLEANS –– A settlement agreement will resolve lawsuits filed by eight former employees of the Times-Picayune newspaper, but one former reporter said she doesn't expect it to effect any industrywide changes.
"I think it’s a rarity that the little guy won," Lori Lyons, who lost her job during a round of layoffs in 2012 that prompted the suits, recently told the Louisiana Record. "I’m happy for them (the plaintiffs), I really am, but I don’t think it’s going to have any long-term repercussions."
Lyons opted not to join the suits, but said she fit the criteria of the plaintiffs, as an older, seasoned employee who was laid off, despite the company's "job security pledge."
The plaintiffs, ages 46-59 when they lost their jobs, claimed the layoffs violated the job security pledge and age discrimination laws. The jobs ranged from warehouse worker to reporter.
Lyons, a sports reporter, said she was 50 and a 26-year veteran of the Times-Picayune staff when she lost her job during the first round of cuts in 2012.
The job loss put her in a "deep, dark hole," she said.
The Times-Picayune announced staff cuts in conjunction with a plan to boost news coverage at its companion website, NOLA.com. Similar plans were also announced by other Advance-owned publications.
Lyons said she found out over Twitter that the company planned to "restructure.”
At the time, she worked out of a Times-Picayune satellite office covering small communities between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. There was a meeting for all employees at the newspaper’s main office in New Orleans, she said.
“A few weeks later, we had an emergency meeting, where they sort of sugar coated it and tried to tell us we were all going to be fine,” Lyons said.
Lyons said she was informed of her layoff in May 2012, but was expected to stay on until September.
“I don’t know if I was let go because I was old, or because of the money I was making,” she said. “I had been there so long I was in the higher tier of their pay scale.”
Afterward, she said she spent most of her time caring for her elderly mother, while also doing occasional freelance work. In November 2015, she was hired part-time at a local library; a few months later, she landed a full-time job as the sports editor for a small local newspaper.
She said she might have ultimately fared better than some of the other former Times-Picayune reporters because the market for sports writers is better than that for news writers. Also, she’s fortunate enough to live in the same suburban market she’d covered for the Times-Picayune, so she already had experience covering the sports beats there.
While the outcome of the lawsuits seems favorable for the plaintiffs, large-market newspapers will probably continue making similar staff cuts, Lyons said.