I was astounded that the Baton Rouge Advocate has bought out the New Orleans Times-Picayune and its NOLA web site.
Advocate owners and local entrepreneurs John and Dathel Georges announced Thursday that they are purchasing the Picayune from the much larger Newhouse Corp. The purchase deal came just a few weeks after the Baton Rouge Advocate won a Pulitzer Prize for a series that brought an end to Louisiana allowing guilty verdicts on 10-2 jury votes.
The Advocate moved into New Orleans in 2012 when the Newhouse Corp. decided to cut back the Picayune's print publication and concentrate on its digital edition.
The Georges' New Orleans Advocate moved into the space left by the Picayune, publishing a print newspaper seven days a week and establishing one of the few competitive newspaper markets in the United States. The New Orleans Advocate established a local office at a historic building on stately St. Charles Avenue.
That proved a winning strategy in the long run. Despite its poverty and low literacy rate, New Orleans preferred reading a daily newspaper rather than getting its news via computer or smart phone.
Beginning in June, a new newspaper bearing both the Picayune and Advocate names will publish a print edition seven days a week, a rare win in recent years for print journalism over the digital model.
While retreating from New Orleans, Newhouse will apparently continue its digital-first strategy in markets across the United States, including Birmingham, Ala.
The Advocate company also will take over the NOLA web site, which will combine with the Advocate's. The Advocate recently switched to a paid subscription model for its web site.
As a Louisiana native and alum of the Baton Rouge Advocate, I'll miss the spirited competition between the two media companies. The Georgeses promised to hire Picayune staffers and continue to run T-P features and comics. I hope that includes the excellent Picayune/NOLA team that covers Louisiana's coastal erosion and other environmental problems. Reporting on LSU sports and state government likely will grow less competitive.
The Georgeses are also strong-arming the competition in the Acadiana capital of Lafayette. According to the Advocate article announcing the purchase of the New Orleans newspaper, the Georges power couple recently doubled the staff of the Lafayette Advocate by raiding staffers from the venerable Lafayette Advertiser.
While the Georgeses' commitment to print newspapers is laudable, they apparently want to own the sole newspaper covering South Louisiana. The disappearance of independent local voices like the Picayune and Advertiser won't be healthy for the state.