After going to thrice-weekly publication last fall as part of its move to a "digital newsroom" (and later adding a Monday sports tabloid during New Orleans Saints football season and a early-Sunday "bulldog" edition in the subsequent months), NOLA Media Group announced in April it would return to printing a news product on the days that The Times-Picayune was not printed.
That tabloid print product, which was named "TP Street," was largely greeted with dismay in the newsroom and confusion and derision elsewhere, due in part to publisher Ricky Mathews' spin on the tabloid. Mathews had called TP Street "the latest milestone in our evolution as a multimedia news organization," when it was clear that the move was a retreat to daily printing.
Adding to the confusion was NOLA Media Group's statement that TP Street was a response to subscribers' demand for a paper — but TP Street would not be delivered to subscribers, but available only on news racks for an additional price. (The final version of TP Street will carry The Times-Picayune's familiar "flag," or front-page logo.)
That non-delivery plan, Gambit learned several weeks ago, has also been reconsidered as NOLA Media Group pondered the possibility of returning to daily delivery of a daily print product with the name Times-Picayune, effectively positioning the physical paper where it was a year ago before the "digital transition" — albeit a physical paper with a severely damaged brand and new competition in the form of The Advocate's New Orleans edition.
Amoss' memo to his staff below the jump.
Over the weekend, a Gambit reader noticed that some recent Blake Pontchartrain columns contained passages that hewed closely to materials that were published elsewhere. In some cases, passages in the Blake columns were identical, or nearly identical, to the work of others.
After analyzing those examples and doing our own preliminary research, we’ve determined that the problem is not an isolated one, nor were the identical passages inserted at some point during the editing process.
“Blake Pontchartrain” is a composite column that has been written by several contributors over the years. These examples can all be attributed to a single writer, who will no longer be working for Gambit.
While we look at more of this writer’s columns and try to determine the depth of the problem, we’ve decided the safest course of action is to remove the Blake Pontchartrain archive from our website. We’ll keep readers apprised of our findings.
A New Orleans native, Foster studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and began her publishing career as an intern at Time Out New York. Foster has been an employee of Gambit since 2001, serving in various capacities including advertising coordinator and assistant advertising director. She has been the paper’s marketing director since 2008.
Foster has served as project manager for many digital projects for Gambit, including client-designed mobile sites and multiple redesigns of Gambit’s website, bestofneworleans.com. She also has headed development for online and print promotions and served as project manager for the company’s special events, including the Gambit Food Revue. In the most recent Media Audit survey (Nov. 2012-Jan. 2013), Gambit’s readership was up 37 percent from the previous year.
“Jeanne just gets it,” DuBos said. “She has done an outstanding job on print, digital and event projects that keep Gambit Communications current and relevant. This promotion is a tribute to her keen ability and success at advancing the Gambit brand in today’s media marketplace.”
“We have a really creative and innovative team right now,” Foster said, “and I am so excited to help continue to build the Gambit brand in the community and deliver what our loyal and growing readership wants via the print product, bestofneworleans.com and Gambit Events.”
5 p.m. Thursday, June 6 update: The New Orleans Inspector General's office issued a report saying the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO) is "adequately funded" and recommends that the city "not appropriate funds for the jail unless OPSO provides it with a detailed, functional budget that identifies the specific jail expenditures the revenues support." Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said in a statement, "The root cause is a dysfunctional structure that gives OPSO a blank check that the City must sign, and ensures that neither the City nor OPSO can be held wholly accountable for conditions in the Jail. The Jail will remain as it is until that structure is changed.”
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk approved a federal consent decree this afternoon between the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to address the controversial conditions at Orleans Parish Prison.
The consent decree, to be assessed and overseen by an independent monitor, is welcomed by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, though he has repeatedly stressed that his office and the jail are run constitutionally. Gusman instead has claimed that the jail's conditions are due to a lack of funding and leadership from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city. Landrieu's office has objected to the consent decree, which his office argues will cost the city $110 million over five years.
Longtime New Orleans political columnist Stephanie Grace and Times-Picayune reporter Laura Maggi are the latest names to join the New Orleans edition of The Advocate.
Grace, who declined a job offer from The TImes-Picayune last year following the paper's restructuring, will return to print three times weekly with a column that will appear Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. (Most recently, she has written a series of cover stories as a contributor to Gambit.) Last week, James Gill, another veteran T-P columnist, jumped to The Advocate, where his column appears twice weekly.
"I'm back to doing what I always did — writing about local and state politics — and really excited to be part of the conversation in Baton Rouge," Grace told Gambit this morning. "I'm picking up where I left off, and surrounded by some of my favorite people who happen to be great journalists."
James Gill, whose acerbic wit and incisive columns about Louisiana politics and peccadillos have appeared in The Times-Picayune since 1986, is the latest T-P name to jump ship to The Advocate.
"It's very hard to make out a quote, because quotes are all bullshit," Gill told Gambit tonight. "But I am delighted to go to the highest bidder, I am happy to be renewing my association with [former Times-Picayune managing editor, now Advocate editor] Peter Kovacs — and I am delighted we have a newspaper war again after so many years."
Gill took a buyout from the Picayune in late 2009 and almost immediately signed a freelance agreement to continue his elegant-but-pugnacious column on the paper's op-ed page. Since then, he and his wife Gail have split their time between New Orleans and Gill's native England.
In 1997, Gill wrote Lords of Misrule, a book that traced the intersections between the history of New Orleans and the history of Mardi Gras Carnival krewes.
Last January, Gill wrote about the news that businessman John Georges was interested in buying The Advocate:
The Picayune, after publishing a daily since 1837, was bound to be missed, and the Advocate's owners did not neglect the opportunity to pick up the slack. They launched a New Orleans edition, which they say is selling respectably.
That just goes to show that a lot of people really do like a paper in their hands every morning, because The Advocate's New Orleans edition cannot hold a candle to the Picayune. This is not a knock on the ex-Picayune staffers who make up its New Orleans bureau; it doesn't matter how brilliant they are, because we still have them hopelessly outnumbered.
With Gill jumping ship, that number was just reduced by one, and more are expected to follow this week.
Since New Orleans businessman John Georges bought The Advocate just a week ago, things have been moving quickly. Georges installed former T-P managing editors Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea as editor and general manager, and there was word that The Advocate's Baronne Street offices were adding several additional parking spaces immediately. It was a poorly kept secret that the paper had been talking to T-P city editor Gordon Russell, and only a slightly better kept secret that The Advocate was also interested in Martha Carr, a veteran of the city desk known as a meticulous editor.
"If Gordon and Martha go," a city reporter told Gambit Saturday night, "we all go."
And that's what seems to be happening. This morning Kovacs announced that Russell would be joining the New Orleans Advocate (not the New Orleans bureau of The Advocate, but "the New Orleans Advocate", a change in terminology). Also leaving the T-P: city reporters Claire Galofaro and Andrew Vanacore. (Former T-P staffer Sara Pagones, who had been helming the New Orleans bureau since it launched last fall, will now be St. Tammany bureau chief.) Russell becomes The Advocate's managing editor for investigations, while Carr will be the New Orleans paper's managing editor.
Kovacs told Gambit this morning that he didn't have a precise date for when their bylines might start appearing in The Advocate. "I think our goal is in the very near future," he said. "Things are moving very quickly and I would hope we would start seeing them in the next week or so. It’s a ramp-up process." Beyond that, he had little to say when asked about a redesign of the paper (rumored to be scheduled for late summer) and a possible web redesign. "We have lots of plans to improve the paper," Kovacs said. "I’m not going into which they are and when they’re coming."
Gambit editor Kevin Allman appeared on last night's Informed Sources on WYES-TV to discuss this week's tumult and realignment in the local media world with The Times-Picayune and The Advocate. The panel included host Larry Lorenz, producer Errol Laborde, reporter Dawn Ostrom and WWL-TV investigative reporter David Hammer.
The show isn't embeddable, but you can watch here.
The Advocate, which moved into the New Orleans market from Baton Rouge earlier this year in response to The Times-Picayune going to a three-day-per-week production schedule, has been sold to New Orleans businessman and sometime-political candidate John Georges. The announcement of the "Georges Media Group" and its buy will be announced officially on Wednesday at a 10 a.m. press conference at The Advocate's Bluebonnet Road offices, which will be attended by Gov. Bobby Jindal and various politicos and dignitaries.
In an interview tonight, Georges said he would be getting his first look at the physical paper when he walks through the newsroom and plant tomorrow. "I've wanted to buy The Advocate for two years now," he said, adding that the deal was finalized just today.
Georges had signed a letter of intent in March to buy the paper from the Manship family, which had owned it for 100 years. Publisher David Manship, who had been publicly ambivalent about the family's sale, sent an email to employees tonight saying, "I can tell you personally I am happy that such a passionate and reputable Louisiana family is taking the helm."
"It got complicated when they [The Advocate] decided to come into the New Orleans market last year," Georges said. "Negotiations stalled for six months."
Georges, who has never owned a media company, has had a wide variety of businesses (including a paper boy route for The Times-Picayune at age 15). Most of his ventures have been successful. The New Orleans native and Tulane University graduate built his company, Imperial Trading, into a distributor for convenience stores across the South. Its parent company, Georges Enterprises, has had a wide variety of holdings, including video poker machines. In 2007, the longtime Republican ran for governor as an independent and was defeated by Jindal. In 2009, he purchased Galatoire's, the city's old-line restaurant (which has a spinoff, Galatoire's Bistro, in Baton Rouge), and ran for mayor of New Orleans as a Democrat in a hotly contested race which he ultimately lost to Mitch Landrieu.
Asked if people thought he was crazy to be getting into the newspaper business at a time when the future of newspapers seemed dim, Georges said, "Warren Buffett and the Koch brothers are getting into it. I don’t know who says it's crazy."
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