Former Advance Media employees and insiders are circulating a long message they say is from former Press-Register and Times-Picayune publisher Ricky Mathews’ Facebook page claiming he has retired from the Newhouse-owned company.

Unfortunately this reporter is not a Facebook “friend” of Mathews and therefore was unable to see the message firsthand, but others with access to the page vouched for its authenticity, although all did so under condition of anonymity. They also provided a copy of the message.

Mathews’ latest position was as president of Advance Southeast Media, an umbrella organization overseeing all of its newspapers and websites in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. In the message, Mathews says he has made a decision to retire at 59, one year earlier than his personal goal. Mathews says a health scare last year is what got him thinking about slowing down his career.

“It was a wake-up call. And as I put myself on a path of recovery, I began planning life changes that would ensure I’d continue to enjoy the blessings of the good health I have now and quality time with friends and family in the next phase of my life. I’m wrapping up the loose ends of that transition now and expect to be retired as of January 1,” Mathews wrote. “Looking back, I’m not sure how I came out of the last 15 years alive. It’s no secret that those years were among the most tumultuous in the last century of newspaper publishing in general and in our region in particular. I took on increasing levels of executive oversight and strategic planning responsibilities at precisely the same time our industry began a battle to reimagine media in a marketplace flooded with new competitors, new technology and new risks.”

Mathews has faced rigorous public criticism in both Mobile and New Orleans as he oversaw cutbacks that saw hundreds laid off and left newspapers in both cities shells of their former selves that publish just three days a week. He was particularly reviled in New Orleans, where the changes were much more abrupt and left subscribers to one of the nation’s best-read and most-admired newspapers wondering what had happened.

Still, Mathews has achieved numerous accolades in his career, including a Pulitzer Prize while he was publisher of the Biloxi Sun-Herald during the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. He was part of a statewide board there that helped plan post-hurricane rebuilding, and also served on a similar board in Alabama following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

While Mathews mentioned no immediate plans, he said he would likely be joining some corporate boards where “my talents as a leader and change agent can be put to use.”

Mathews did not respond to an email about this matter prior to deadline.

WKRG expanding broadcasts
Last week marked some changes with WKRG-TV’s broadcast schedule, as the CBS affiliate expanded both in the wee hours of the morning and in the evening.

On Dec. 5, “News 5 This Morning” began offering a weekday newscast at 4:30 a.m., joining the other stations in the market that have moved to an earlier start. “This Morning” will run from 4:30-7:00 a.m.

The other big change takes place in the evenings, when New 5 has started running a 6:30 p.m. show. The new half hour of news gives WKRG the only newscast on at that time.

WKRG General Manager Mark Bunting said the new evening broadcast will offer differences such as anchors standing and news that didn’t appear on the earlier broadcast.

Bunting also wanted to let viewers know “The Andy Griffith Show,” which was displaced by the 6:30 newscast, can now be seen at 9:30 p.m. on WKRG’s sister station CW 55.