Audit Notes: The Times-Picayune, Dimon’s hubris, the QuikTrip model

Shakeups in the Louisiana newspaper war

Gambit’s Kevin Allman reports that the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Baton Rouge bureau chief is out after six months. My long story in the current issue of CJR on the Picayune pointed to the Baton Rouge bureau as a particular embarrassment, both inside and outside the paper. Here’s Allman:

Carlos Sanchez, the managing editor of NOLA Media Group’s new Baton Rouge bureau, has resigned after less than six months on the job, multiple sources within the company have told Gambit…

NOLA Media Group’s Baton Rouge bureau also came under fire earlier this month in a lengthy, critical story by Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review — a story that triggered anger within the NOLA Media Group and, according to some current and past employees, a search for internal sources who may have spoken to Chittum.

I’d like to think a newspaper with the investigative tradition of the Picayune would be above trying to smoke out people who talked to a reporter, but maybe not (and I’ve heard the same thing Allman has from sources inside and outside the paper).

In the meantime, New Orleans businessman John Georges has inked a deal to buy the Baton Rouge Advocate, which rattled an already reeling Picayune by launching a daily New Orleans edition that picked up a circulation of 23,500 in less than one quarter.

That latest wrinkle in the Louisiana newspaper war is one to watch.

The New York Times reports that at least two members of JPMorgan Chase’s board are increasingly concerned about the swarm of investigations into one-time press favorite Jamie Dimon’s bank:

All told, at least eight federal agencies are investigating the bank, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Federal prosecutors and the F.B.I. in New York are also examining potential wrongdoing at JPMorgan.

It only took probes by eight different agencies to get a couple board members concerned. You have to wonder how many it will take for the rest of the board to raise an eyebrow.

Such is the power of TBTF JPMorgan and Dimon that the Times actually writes that its top lawyer Stephen Cutler (, a former SEC enforcement chief, naturally) “is advocating for the bank to take a respectful approach with regulators.”

That’s after Dimon “took an adversarial tone with regulators, pushing them to explain why they needed that level of information. Mr. Dimon’s approach seemed to influence other executives, including one employee who once screamed at examiners and called them ‘stupid.’”

— It’s always nice to see the press spotlight companies that actually do right by their employees—particularly when they’re in the retail industry, which typically pays poverty wages.

At The Atlantic, Sophie Quinn looks at Trader Joe’s, QuikTrip, and Costco, which “are proving that the decision to offer low wages is a choice, not an economic necessity.”

The average American cashier makes $20,230 a year, a salary that in a single-earner household would leave a family of four living under the poverty line. But if he works the cash registers at QuikTrip, it’s an entirely different story. The convenience-store and gas-station chain offers entry-level employees an annual salary of around $40,000, plus benefits.

It makes a big, big difference. QuikTrip is based in Tulsa, my hometown, and its gas stations are basically beloved there, and that ultimately comes from the fact that their workers have always been dramatically better than those at QT’s competitors. QT can hire better because it pays more, but the higher pay also makes their workers happier and harder-working. $40k in Tulsa (starting!) is a solid living, particularly in an age where workers, particularly male workers, who don’t have college degrees have seen their wages slashed. That’s about 20 bucks an hour.

Contrast that with a Walmart worker, who earns an average $8.81 an hour. That’s not the average starting pay, either.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,