Former Press-Register employees bumped out over the past few years as the Newhouse corporation has shifted its emphasis towards digital media are no doubt closely watching a lawsuit filed in New Orleans last month.

Eight former Times-Picayune employees have sued the newspaper and its corporate owner Advance Publications for breach of contract and age discrimination culminating in their layoffs in 2012. For many years employees across the company’s many newspapers operated under the “Newhouse Pledge,” which essentially said they would never be fired for economic reasons.

However, when newspapers began spiraling economically, The Pledge was ended and buyouts and layoffs ensued in 2010, often accompanied by the hiring of younger or lower-paid employees.

The lawsuits were filed by employees who were middle-aged and had worked in varied capacities for the T-P, and all say they were either not allowed to apply or unsuccessfully applied for lower-wage positions with the paper.

At the center of the suits is The Pledge. The plaintiffs say they stayed with the T-P in part because of the guarantee they wouldn’t be phased out, keeping them from pursing other opportunities. The question will be whether The Pledge will be viewed as a contract by the judge.

Such a suit has already been tried once in Mobile, as former P-R Publisher Howard Bronson took his former employers to court over being forced out. He settled the case just before a decision would have been rendered.

It’s safe to say the hundreds of former Newhouse employees who lost their jobs the same way are interested.

Satire misses with some readers

The folks at Arts & Entertainment website Mod Mobilian have been known to mix some hard news, opinion and political articles in with their coverage of the local arts scene, but a recent satirical piece has them rethinking the use of satire to make a point.

In the wake of the dustup over the Prancing Elites dance troupe being booted from the MoonPie Drop New Year’s Eve, the site ran a satirical article written like a news piece in which Mayor Sandy Stimpson declared that Mardi Gras would be alcohol-free. Despite a disclaimer at the bottom of the article, some apparently thought the unthinkable had happened — no booze at Mardi Gras.

The article caused enough confusion that ModMo decision-makers also penned an op-ed explaining the point they were trying to make and squarely blaming Stimpson for the Elites being yanked. But they ended up pulling both articles offline last week.

A ModMo spokesman who did not wish to be named said they were disappointed by people’s reaction to what they felt was obvious satire.

“The problem is we started with a disclaimer at the bottom of the piece that it was satire. Even with that we worried that we would be insulting our readers’ intelligence. (A dry Mardi Gras? Really? What planet are you from??) However, it became obvious on social media that some people took it as a real news story. So we added the accompanying ‘serious’ op-ed and large disclaimer at the top that it was satire. People were still posting it as if it were real. That was not our intention. So, we pulled it rather than do any harm,” the spokesperson said.

The situation has caused a bit of soul-searching when it comes to satire, the spokesperson said.

“Frankly, at this point we don’t know how to write satire in this area without it being taken literally. Maybe some education on the term and we can serialize Jonathan Swift or Voltaire or such, but until then we don’t feel we can safely publish it. And it is a shame because we get tired of beating everyone over the head with serious, rational thought all the time. We do arts, entertainment and opinion (albeit factually based and sourced). And when we do present facts they are reliable (unlike some traditional local media ironically — see recent stories on Alabama Music Box’s closing or Saban’s leaving for Texas). We leave the hard news and investigative reporting to you guys because you do a great job at it. But obviously we are in a ‘brave new world’ of media where people can confuse the two and until we figure out how to do it ‘safely’ we will have to just be serious all the time.”

Speaking of social media…

If you ever need to be slammed by strangers, social media always provides.

Such was the situation surrounding a couple of television ads that ran during the GoDaddy Bowl touting the city of Mobile’s various virtues. The comments were rough to say the least. Especially since one of the commercials had a grammatical error in a tagline proclaiming Mobile “Secretly Awesome.” It said “The words out,” but should have read “The word’s out.” Suddenly every erstwhile English teacher in Alabama pounced.

While I wouldn’t put the commercials up there with Ron Burgundy selling Dodge trucks or the Old Spice piece where all the mommas sing about their teenage boys, anyone with a memory would have to admit this year’s commercials were far, far, far better than in the past when they featured the mayor just rambling on about the city.

Twitter trigger lock please…

It’s a rough out in cyberspace, folks.

And AJ McCarron’s momma found that out the hard way during the BCS championship too. In the minutes after the national championship game was over, the Alabama QB’s mother, who has gone by Dee Dee Bonner and now Dee Dee McCarron, apparently lost control of her senses momentarily.

As the revved-up winning Florida State QB Jameis Winston spoke to reporters right after the game, Bonner/McCarron tweeted “Am I listening to English?” Whoops.
She took the tweet down quickly but it was too late. The haters (and some supporters) poured it on. She’s landed in news stories and is now being lumped in with Ms. Sweet Water, the butt-kicking momma during Bama’s Sugar Bowl loss in the Superdome.

First, I watched Jameis’ interview and didn’t think he was inarticulate at all. That aside, it’s all just another example of the dangers of Twitter, particularly if you are someone who is even just moderately famous.

One day I’ll patent my Twitter Triggerlock and retire to a sandy beach somewhere.