To all of you “New New Orleanians” out there, you should be familiar with an old local expression, “makin’ groceries.” The term was applied to the act of going shopping for food such as, “Momma is makin’ groceries.” Last week we saw a new twist on that phrase, and perhaps a little makin’ history, too.

       A front page announcement in the New Orleans Advocate had this headline: "Rouses, Winn-Dixie Shifting Ads to The New Orleans Advocate: Look for Rouses, Winn-Dixie Circulars in the Next Month."

       To maximize the numbers of people who get those circulars, it was explained that The Advocate: "… will launch four free weekly publications that will be distributed across the New Orleans metro area. … The Crescent City Advocate, The West Bank Advocate, The East Jefferson Advocate and The St. Tammany Advocate will be delivered to non-subscribing households. Another new publication, The Weekend Advocate, will be delivered to non-subscribing households over the weekend. The publications will ensure that advertisers can reach the complete metro-area audience."

       So that no one overlooks their unsubscribed to newspapers, the publications will be delivered in a distinctive red bag.

       On the one hand this seems like small stuff – free distribution weeklies created to carry grocery store ads. On the other hand the story could be, within the world of newspapers, global in importance. What is going on in New Orleans is unprecedented – a once mighty and well-established daily newspaper cuts its frequency but then an upstart challenger takes over the daily market. In most cities when a daily goes under there's no one with the gall to try to replace it; not so in New Orleans, where the challenger can truly claim that it's the locally owned newspaper as opposed to the New York-based Newhouse publication.

       From the moment that John Georges bought The Advocate, there was never any doubt that the newspaper could compete with the T-P journalistically, since so many of its prime journalists once worked for the former daily. The big question was if The Advocate could satisfy advertisers. We don't know the numbers, but it's obvious something is happening.

      Consider these quotes from The Advocate’s announcement:

         Donny Rouse, managing partner for Rouses Markets, which has 19 grocery stores in metro New Orleans, said the shift fits with the Thibodaux-based company’s philosophy.

      “The Advocate is a Louisiana-owned company and so are we,” Rouse said. “We do our best to support Louisiana-owned companies.”

       Karena Niblett, New Orleans region vice president for Winn-Dixie, which has 26 locations in the metro area, said the grocery chain is “very excited to join forces with The Advocate.”

      “We have deep roots in south Louisiana and have proudly served this community for nearly 60 years,” Niblett said. “We’re confident that The Advocate will be another great vehicle to reach locals in the area.”

       Rouses and Winn-Dixie join other grocers who have shifted business to The New Orleans Advocate, including Robert Fresh Market, Lakeview Grocery, Zuppardos and Budget Saver.

      While this was a big win for The Advocate, there's no lack of advertising in the T-P, which is still producing bulky editions; nevertheless this is an indication that The Advocate isn't going away.

       All of this happened during a week in which there was a major story that was a natural for coverage by a daily newspaper. On Wednesday night the Pelicans defeated the San Antonio Spurs to win a spot in the NBA playoffs. The game was the biggest moment in the frequently troubled franchise’s history, and may have been the turning point that stabilized the team and put it on the map, not only locally, but nationally. This was the sort of big game that any sports fan would want to anxiously read about in the next morning’s daily newspaper. They could do that, but only in The Advocate. There is no Thursday home delivered T-P. Yes there's, and the T-P has some fine sports writers, but anyone wanting to turn the pages of the T-P had to wait until Friday morning.

       By then many people might be at the store, using their coupons, makin’ groceries.

                                                                                            — 30 —



BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.