If we wanted to be totally Machiavellian about it, we would urge readers not to subscribe to either The Advocate or The Times-Picayune. After all, although we’re a magazine and not a newspaper, we still compete for some of the same limited advertising dollars.
The less there is of competition of any sort, the more opportunity there is for us.
Our loyalty for New Orleans, however, trumps our business connivance, and we remain convinced that the city needs a daily newspaper. The way things have shaken down since the Newhouses gutted The Times-Picayune, that daily is The Advocate.
For the Baton Rouge-based newspaper, coming to New Orleans has been a gutsy challenge. Publisher David Manship has said that if ever his company had planned to have a beachhead in New Orleans, the implementation would have been phased in over a year; instead he had roughly eight weeks to gear up before the T-P’s Oct. 1 reduction to three times a week.
Taking the step into the New Orleans market brought with it some good news and some bad. The good was that, according to Manship, the response has been “unbelievable.” The bad was that there was more response than the newspaper’s subscription department could initially handle. The first week of providing home delivery, he concedes, “was a disaster.” There were also personnel problems within the delivery system.
By now, the subscription and delivery problems are fixed and anyone who wants to get the newspaper should be able to (by calling 529-0522). Meanwhile, work continues on an Advocate bureau office housed on Union Street in the business district. The first floor location is expected to open later this month. (By contrast the Newhouses have moved the T-P editorial staff to a site on the top floors of Canal Place. Journalists are reportedly encouraged to come into the office as little as possible and to file electronically. It is all about the digital, you know.)
For The Advocate, the next few months will be critical. The newspaper has entered a market where arms have been wide open.
(Manship had hoped to have 10,000 subscribers after the first six months; instead after less than two months he had more than 11,000.) He is working to build the newspaper’s entertainment package and, no small matter, has reached out to all New Orleans funeral homes to provide obituary information. Manship says some key advertisers have come in. By the end of the year, he says, the newspaper should be in full stride.
Some readers will like the increased state coverage that comes with The Advocate; others are alienated by it. (At one event we heard a woman complain that she had “no interest is reading about Prairieville.”) To that we say, why not? We are all a part of the same metro economy.
Riding in elevators are the staffers at the T-P. We wish them the best. Many are fine journalists. The anger over the past few months hasn’t been with them, but with the people they work for. One day, we hope, they will find themselves working again for a daily newspaper – preferably a newspaper with owners that care about the city that supports them.