Having triggered its effort to decrease the quantity and quality of journalism in New Orleans, the Newhouse clan has decided to enhance one Louisiana media market—Baton Rouge. A report published last Friday in the Baton Rouge Business Report says that NOLA Media Group, is “expanding its online product into the Baton Rouge market.”
Several weeks ago, Baton Rouge’s The Advocate announced that it would expand into the New Orleans market once the Newhouses, as threatened, reduced the circulation of the Times-Picayune to three times a week beginning in October.
According to the Business Report article written by Stephanie Riegel, a former New Orleans journalist who now edits the Baton Rouge business paper: Officials with NOLA Media Group did not return calls seeking comment, but sources familiar with the plan say the company is staffing up locally and will be increasing its online coverage of Baton Rouge news, sports and politics. A post on the company's website says as much.
An online ad for a "managing producer, Baton Rouge," says, "This is an entrepreneurial effort to significantly expand our footprint in a growing and vibrant city that offers a journalistically compelling mix of politics, sports and breaking news. You will step in as a main player in launching this digitally focused coverage effort."
Note to Newhouses: We’re glad you think that Baton Rouge is a “growing and vibrant city” which underscores the point made by a group of New Orleanians who wrote to you a few weeks ago urging you to sell: “If your family does not believe in the future of this great city and its capacity to support a daily newspaper, it is only fair to allow us to find someone who does.”
According to Riegel: Experts say it's a shrewd move, especially since the media group has little digital competition in the Baton Rouge market. However, the company faces two challenges. First, it needs to staff up adequately and provide quality journalism, according to Bob Ritter, professional in residence at the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. “I also think they will have to develop their brand on a more statewide basis,” says Ritter, a former editor of The Denver Post. “I think that will be the real trick.”
It has taken the genius of the Newhouses to diminish the esteem once had for a beloved newspaper in its hometown and to make the Baton Rouge Advocate seem heroic. Once it starts publishing daily in New Orleans, The Advocate will discover that no one can touch this city not only for growth and vibrancy, but for its resilience from setbacks.
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