July 1, 2019

Reporting on New Orleans’ oldest newspaper always included one clunky caveat — it wasn’t The Times-Picayune. It was NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, and it was owned by Advance Local.

On Monday, the Times-Picayune officially got absorbed into The Advocate, and the tradition of newspapers having many names carried on. Now, it’s The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate. You’ll find all three brands listed at the top of nola.com. Monday’s first merged edition included them, too, with the Times-Pic on top.

That’s a change from the original plan of leading with The Advocate, editor Peter Kovacs told WWLTV’s Eric Paulsen on Saturday. “We spent a long time this week listening to Times-Picayune readers and subscribers and there’s a lot of respect…,” Kovacs said.

He added that the newly combined newsroom would continue listening to the community about the brands. From a locally-owned newsroom that won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, that’s both excellent and no surprise.

But here’s a bit of unsolicited advice from someone who isn’t local — please pick a name. Just one.

I’ve visited local newsrooms that have multiple identities and found that while the newsroom itself might be able to keep them straight, the communities they serve can’t (and shouldn’t.)

In Philadelphia in 2017, I heard people answer the phone three different ways in the same newsroom. As one staffer in Philly said on that visit — it really just dilutes the brand.

Last month, Billy Penn wrote about the newsroom’s leap to one brand.

“The change is subtle,” Danya Henninger wrote, “but existential.”

Of course there’s history to newspapers merging and combining names. It’s the reason many (including the Times-Picayune) are now so clunky.  It’s also understandable that a newsroom would want to hold onto both a historic identity and one it fought hard for.

But readers have enough information to sort through right now and enough options to choose from. When the merger dust has settled, they’ll need strong local news in New Orleans to continue from a clear source. So please, pick a name.

Just not Tronc.

Correction: Thanks to our sharp-eyed reader who caught a mistake at the beginning of this story. It was NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, not the other way around. 

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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