Can’t Baton Rouge Have Its Very Own Daily Newspaper?

Can’t Baton Rouge Have Its Very Own Daily Newspaper?


With Population  of 450,000, EBR Shouldn’t Have to Share with NOLA

by Woody Jenkins, Editor

BATON ROUGE — On Monday, the new publisher of the Advocate, John Georges, spoke at length about his plans for the Advocate at the Baton Rouge Press Club and thereby invited public comment.
Basically, he seems to be on a path to make the Advocate a regional newspaper with two editions, one for Baton Rouge and one for New Orleans.
Frankly, the direction he is taking is very good for us.  We are a locally-owned community newspaper serving the people of East Baton Rouge.  Everything we do is about this community, not New Orleans or elsewhere.
If the big daily in our community goes off on a tangent, it creates an opportunity for us.  A lot of people read our newspaper.  About 16,000 copies of each issue are circulated, and it is read by about 40,000 people — about 2.5 readers per copy.  In addition, another 20,000 copies are delivered on-line.  Virtually all of our readers are in East Baton Rouge Parish, especially South Baton Rouge and Central.
Do we compete with the Advocate?  Of course we do, because we compete for people’s attention and readership.  Right now, we’re getting good reviews from our readers.  People seem to truly enjoy our product.  We’ve been increasing our reach by adding more and better locations for distribution — now more than 400 locations where you can pick us up.
Compare this with the 44,000 copies of the Advocate distributed in East Baton Rouge Parish, and you see that we are beginning to make a difference and build a real audience.  Moreover, our presence in the market helps define what news is and how the issues will be framed.
So why should we object to the Advocate’s becoming a regional newspaper?  Because it’s bad for our community! East Baton Rouge Parish has nearly 450,000 people.  This is the State Capital, the wealthiest parish, the population center, the political center, and the media center of Louisiana.
Doesn’t a market that size deserve a daily newspaper that intensely covers what is happening here?  Of course it does.
There is so much important news to be covered here, and our media only skims the surface.
The daily newspaper in Baton Rouge should be covering all the local governments, investigating all the political shenanigans, and putting the spotlight on the churches, the schools, and the people.
Instead, the Advocate is running off to New Orleans, Slidell, Lafayette, Houma, and all the rest in a 20-parish area.  There is absolutely no way under the sun that they can do justice to the people in those areas.  And they certainly cannot fulfill their obligations to the people of this parish.
The entire Advocate could be filled with news about this parish, because there’s that much going on.  They have the resources to do just that, but they are not.
I believe John Georges is a good man and means well, but this is very different from a wholesale food distribution company.  This is not about how far out you distribute your paper, or how many copies go to far-flung places.  Rather, it’s about doing a great job in the communities you serve.
Every community of any size at all deserves its own newspaper.
A State Capital city with all the things Baton Rouge has going for it certainly needs and deserves a newspaper devoted to IT.
When you take on the ownership of a newspaper, you take on a lot of responsibilities.  If you are the only daily newspaper in a community, you have to — first and foremost — cover that community.  After that, cover what you possibly can about the state and nation.  But don’t dilute your resources and the little space you have in every issue to cover communities in far distant places, such as New Orleans.  Most people here aren’t really that interested in New Orleans, to be honest
All of this brings me to the real news: We have a new motto for our newspaper: “We DON’T cover New Orleans!”


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