Georges Media Group’s Foray into North Louisiana Exemplifies 2 Trends

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NEW ORLEANS — The publisher of The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, The Acadiana Advocate and Gambit has announced it will expand its news coverage to reach north Louisiana’s biggest market in a digital-only format.

Launching in July, the Shreveport-Bossier Advocate will be a “dedicated digital newsroom of 10 journalists living and working in the community and focusing on in-depth local news,” according to a spokesperson for the Georges Media Group (GMG). The company is owned by New Orleans-based businessman and onetime Louisiana gubernatorial candidate John Georges. 

According to Errol Laborde, editor in chief at Renaissance Publishing (parent company of Biz New Orleans), the move exemplifies two trends that show how journalism is adapting to survive.

“Here’s a company with a solid reputation for newspapers throughout parts of the state going upstate with digital first,” he said. “The company is spared the cost of printing and distribution and able to move into a market quickly.”

Laborde said he hopes the online content will eventually lead the way to good, old-fashioned inky fingers.

“For those us who still appreciate the warmth of holding a printed publication in our hands and turning the pages over breakfast, I hope one day the new [enterprise] will see advantages in launching companion print and broadcast products,” he said. “The business will have gone full circle and perhaps strengthened itself in the process.”

But first things first. GMG’s president and publisher, Judi Terzotis, said the company is excited to launch a suite of digital news products for the Shreveport-Bossier communities.

“We will provide a robust report on local news topics that impact residents’ lives and marketing solutions that will help businesses thrive,” she said.

North Louisiana media observers said the opportunity for GMG exists because of the declining fortunes of the region’s daily news outlets, which have helped create a “local news gap.” The Shreveport Times, for instance, has seen a marked decline in readership and staff in recent years.

GMG said it will partner with the Community Foundation of North Louisiana, which will act as a fiscal sponsor for donations to help cover costs of local journalism. This is a perfect example of a second media industry trend, according to Laborde, which is that media outlets are turning to philanthropy and other sources for essential operating revenue.

“There’s been an expansion of nonprofit support services such as the Shreveport-Bossier Journalism Fund,” he said. “We are already seeing this on many global websites, including Wikipedia. Traditionally news media have been supported by advertising, newsstands and subscriptions. User contributions are becoming a new battlefront.”

GMG said subscribers to its existing publications will have access to the new content at no additional charge.

Georges, who was a candidate in the 2010 New Orleans mayor’s race, is also chairman of Georges Enterprises, which encompasses grocery distribution, offshore marine services, video/arcade entertainment, food services and investments. The company claims $1 billion in annual sales. Georges also owns Galatoire’s restaurant in New Orleans. His media team’s expansion into north Louisiana underscores its belief in the importance of local news.

Count Laborde among those cheering him on with this new venture.

“There are places in the world where the public is denied information because of politics,” he said. “In other places the loss is because of changes in the marketplace. Media companies, and the public they serve, have to remain creative in protecting the knowledge flow. Best wishes to Georges Media Group. The entire industry should closely watch what happens in Shreveport-Bossier.”

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