More than the news that it would no longer publish every day; more than the rumor that those left in the newsroom will be compensated, in part, based on the traffic their stories generate; more than the dismay of learning that industry “upheaval,” as one newsroom executive put it, could decimate an outlet that Hurricane Katrina could not…

The news that Brett Anderson, the Times-Picayune’s excellent, James-Beard-award-winning food critic, was among the more than 200 people laid off Tuesday, was the surest sign that the paper is in full retreat. The idea that the most important news outlet in New Orleans—a city where eating is a religion—would can its top food writer is like saying Permian, TX, is dropping high-school football; or Hawaii is banning surfing.

Sure, we get the familiar more-with-less assurances that the reconstituted T-P will actually offer expanded food coverage. But that’s cold comfort to everyone who has relied on Anderson to guide them for years through the thicket of beignets and etouffees.

Update: Anderson will be invited to return to the paper after his fellowship ends, the T-P reported on Friday.

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Brent Cunningham is CJR’s managing editor.