Although New Orleans is being denied having a locally-published daily newspaper, maybe the Newhouse folks don’t think print is so bad – at least for other people. Recently they decided to keep Cleveland's Plain Dealer as a daily and last week, under the label of NOLA Media Group, they launched a weekly print publication in Baton Rouge called BR.
On NOLA.com, an announcement of the publication by James O’Byrne, who in the Newhouses' new world of job descriptions is now called the "Director of State Content," says this:
"BR" is a new weekly publication distributed at 150 major grocery, drug and convenience stores and hot spots throughout Baton Rouge beginning each Wednesday. Compact in size and distributed free, "BR" provides an overview of the most important entertainment, sports and news events of the past seven days in Baton Rouge, and a look at the week ahead.
O’Byrne goes on to extol that the publication will have many links to their web world – sort of a companion piece to the Internet. (So print is being used to reinforce digital. Might it be reasoned that a seven-times-a-week newspaper would be more effective at propping up digital than one that only comes out three times a week?)
A rather ironic note comes when O’Byrne invites folks to visit the publication’s new downtown Baton Rouge office in the Capital One building.
We're on the ground floor, on the corner facing the Capitol. We call the office a hub, instead of a bureau, for one important reason: It is where we center all of our efforts on Baton Rouge, and seek to serve a Baton Rouge audience, with a staff that lives here and is dedicated to that mission.
By contrast, in New Orleans the staff for The Times-Picayune/NOLA.com has been moved to the top of Canal Place, hardly the sort of location to drop by. (Perhaps BR was inspired by The Advocate’s New Orleans office which is a first floor business district location at 329 Baronne St.)
There are some who might assume that BR is payback for Baton Rouge’s Advocate having expanded into New Orleans. (A competitive move which reportedly is about to get much more serious as the sale to New Orleans businessman John Georges nears.) O’Byrne’s announcement does not address that specifically but goes into great detail on how The Times-Picayune has always had a presence in Baton Rouge, including mentioning the 1935 T-P front page on display at the state capitol reporting on the assassination of Huey Long. In another era, The T-P was the dominant paper throughout south and central Louisiana. That began to change by the 1960s as the Newhouses scaled back distribution. The Newhouse interest in Baton Rouge is mostly newfound.
Whatever the motivations might be, the Newhouses would be wise to know that the emotional situation is not the same in Baton Rouge as it is in New Orleans where people are bitter about The T-P’s downsizing as being an insult to the city. Locals in Baton Rouge have no such beef against the Manship family, which has continued to publish a respectable daily newspaper, even as it prepares to sell the business, albeit to a Louisiana-based owner.
There’s more to come to this saga. As we know, news happens everyday.