If a senator told you, "you're about to get smoked" in your business, would that be enough to get you to sell it? That was the money quote from Louisiana Sen. David Vitter in a letter to New Orleans Times-Picayune owner Steven Newhouse. The letter, unearthed by Politico's Dylan Byers and Burgess Everett, is worth reading in full as it's the most vehement public pressure we've seen yet asking Newhouse and Advance Publications to sell the paper to someone who actually wants to run it as a daily and not the dwindling thrice-weekly Web shadow it's becoming. Vitter's letter tears down Newhouse's proposed model of a digital-first paper, pointing out that the Times-Picayune's Web platform is terrible, and the lack of a daily paper edition will not serve its readership. Then there's this: "Third, from a pure business perspective, you’re about to get smoked. The Advocate and others are moving in to fill the void you are creating. And TP subscribers, including me, will be eager to cheer them on by trading our subscriptions." Ouch.
On Thursday, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Bensen said he was interested in buying the paper, the only public overture of the "multiple credible buyer groups" Vitter aludes to that are interested in the paper. But Newhouse said he wasn't interested, reiterating the sentiment he expressed after a host of New Orleans bigwigs pressured him to part with the paper earlier this month. So if New Orleans archbishop Gregory Aymand, Wynton Marsalis, and Wendell Pierce, among others, can't prevail on Newhouse to sell the paper to someone who'll respect it, can Sen. Vitter? The 200 or so Times-Picayune staffers set to lose their jobs in September almost certainly hope so.