If there is any state in the country that is in serious need of good watchdog journalism, it would be my home state of Louisiana. Sure, our Sportsmen’s Paradise has been celebrated for its colorful pols dating all the way back to Huey Long and the barely fictional “All the King’s Men,” but the reality is that too often “colorful” has been a euphemism for “corrupt.”
And that is no laughing matter when it comes to the environment. As most of you know, Louisiana is a place where natural splendor — our bayous, teeming with life above and below the surface, and our vitally important coastal wetlands — co-exists with an obscene concentration of chemical plants and oil refineries, a place that’s come to be known as “Cancer Alley.” Our so-called political leaders mostly just follow the money. So who is looking out for the average citizen?
Fortunately, we have some great public interest groups here — if you’re a regular reader, you know all about the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) as well as the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, just to name two. But we also require a vigilant news media.
For a number of years, the state’s biggest news organization had been the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The paper, with its out-of-town ownership for many years by the Newhouse family, has had its ups and downs, but in the last couple of years it’s been all down. Last year, they made the dumbfounding decision to print a newspaper just three days a week and to steer readers to its (frankly) mediocre website. The real sin was that they also laid off dozens of experienced journalists — skilled reporters who could have been probing political and corporate wrongdoing. With the BP oil spill and its aftermath the major environmental story these last three years, most of the big scoops have come from smaller websites (including this one), or from out-of-state publications.
Today, however, there is renewed hope for the future of journalism in the Crescent City:
The longtime owners of The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge handed the keys over to its new owner and publisher, New Orleans businessman John Georges, at a press conference Wednesday morning at the Advocate’s editorial offices in Baton Rouge. Georges was flanked at the announcement by three politicians: Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden.
Georges’ purchase of the newspaper from the Manship family for an undisclosed price was finalized Tuesday, The Advocate said.
“This is a joyous day for Louisiana, it’s a joyous day for Baton Rouge, for Lafayette and New Orleans and I hope everyone feels that way,” Georges said. His wife, Dathel, will be an equal partner in the venture, he said.
“I will take this ball and run with it,” he added, holding up a baseball.
This is good news for a number of reasons. John Georges is a highly successful businessman, a self-made billionaire, and if anyone can figure out how to make a newspaper company thrive in the 21st Century, it will be him. I’ve heard from others that the two former Times-Picayune lieutenants he’s hired to run the Advocate, Dan Shea and Peter Kovacs, are top-flight journalists.
Most importantly, Georges will continue the Advocate’s significant expansion into New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf. That will mean more reporters who’ll be tough watchdogs on our elected officials and on any would-be polluters. I look forward to working with the new Advocate. We have some interesting stories to pass along.
To read more coverage of businessman John Georges purchase of the Advocate and the paper’s expansion into New Orleans, please read: http://www.nola.com/business/baton-rouge/index.ssf/2013/05/john_georges_takes_reins_of_th.html
© Smith Stag, LLC 2013 – All Rights Reserved