Baton Rouge Advocate moving into New Orleans

The Advocate | Nola.com | New Orleans Digital News Alliance press release (PDF) | Gambit Weekly | My Spilt Milk

The Baton Rouge Advocate is expanding into New Orleans as its hometown paper The Times-Picayune has announced plans to cut staff and print frequency. “From the moment that they announced that they were going to a three-day-a-week newspaper, we thought there would be tremendous opportunities for The Advocate to fill a void they’re creating,” Richard Manship, president of Capital City Press, told The Advocate.

Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana and is about 80 miles northwest of New Orleans. The Advocate hasn’t had a correspondent in New Orleans since 2009 but Manship says it will add staff to cover the city. The New Orleans edition will have its own front page. “This has to have significant news in it,” Manship said. “This is not just an attempt to sell more papers. We will be trying to cover the news in New Orleans.” It doesn’t sound like the new staff will absorb all the people the Times-Pic is letting go. More Manship:

“Now, we can’t staff a ton of people down there because the economics aren’t going to work. We actually have to make money doing this. And so, we’ll start out with what we think can get the job done.”

The Advocate plans to enter the market in October, when The Times-Picayune’s print cutbacks take effect.

When it announced its changes in May, The Times-Picayune said its less-frequent print product will offer “richer and deeper news, sports and entertainment report, as well as a full week’s worth of features such as society coverage, puzzles and comics.” Nonetheless, other organizations are moving to fill what many perceive will be a vacuum in New Orleans coverage.

Four online news organizations in New Orleans announced yesterday that they’re forming an online news collective called the New Orleans Digital News Alliance. The four are The Lens, My Spilt Milk, NOLA Defender and Uptown Messenger. (All but the Lens are for-profit sites.) “The members will begin promoting each other’s work immediately through social media and other avenues, and closer cooperation is being developed,” the release says. In a post about NODNA, My Spilt Milk honcho Alex Rawls says “Our collective goal is to provide sustainable, up-to-the-minute, hyperlocal online journalism serving the New Orleans community.”

In an email to Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman Monday evening, Lens Managing Editor Steve Beatty said the “changes at the TP certainly were the catalyst for this”:

Plenty of readers have suggested a new central clearinghouse for news, and our four online sites all cover different pieces of the city, so it makes sense to offer that service. I’d say it’s less about The Times-Picayune’s decision to cut back on print coverage and more about nola.com’s nearly impenetrable website. We hope to offer clear, concise referrals to each other’s stories that we think our readers will find worthwhile.

And that’s not the only online newsroom planting a flag in local coverage. Gambit Weekly Editor Kevin Allman says NOLA Beat, “a nonprofit startup planned in the mold of ProPublica or the Texas Tribune,” is planned to start up before the end of the year.

A letter circulated around the New Orleans business community and to potential investors describes the proposed site as a “best-practice model of nonprofit digital journalism that will ensure robust reporting in areas vital to our community and, as an essential public good, provide an open source of quality information for multiple media outlets, community and civic organizations. Its mission will to be “to provide information and promote civic discourse on issues which impact the vibrancy and vitality of the Greater New Orleans region.”

10 beat reporters plus other staffers will be hired, according to the plan.

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  • Anonymous

    YAY!  I found  a real newspaper.  Where do I sign up?

  • http://www.facebook.com/buzz.trexler Buzz Trexler

    Where there is a vacuum, something will fill the void. Looks like it will be real journalism and not just bloggerdom.

  • http://twitter.com/barryhollander Barry Hollander

    On a recent visit, I noticed a number of folks “down the bayou” who normally would take the Times-Picayune now get the Advocate.