Saturday, September 21, 2013


Advocate Seats
Special edition Advocate delivered to Superdome seats for the Saints' home opener vs Atlanta

From a 2012 NPR story on the loss of a daily paper in New Orleans:

John McCusker, who has been a staff photographer at the Times-Picayune since 1986, lost his job in the restructuring.

"The main thing is I'm sad for this city," he said outside a local bar where laid-off workers met to commiserate. "You take away the Times-Picayune, and there are a bunch of police officers that were on the Danziger Bridge that would still be on the streets today.

"You take away the Times-Picayune, and Aaron Broussard would still be president of Jefferson Parish. The watchdog role of this newspaper cannot be underestimated."

McCusker was talking about how reporters exposed corrupt politicians and even a police plot to cover up civilian killings after Hurricane Katrina. The paper's storm coverage earned a Pulitzer Prize.
Since then, the Advocate has entered the New Orleans market with a daily printed paper to fill this crucial "watchdog" role we all lamented last year. Here are some interesting facts about the new watchdog.

 It is owned by millionaire and sometime politician John Georges.

It is "the official paper" of the Tom Benson corporate welfare empire. 

Its new ad sends a bit of a strange message.

If you haven’t seen The New Orleans Advocate’s new television campaign, you probably will soon. The brisk, clever ads emphasize the paper’s daily delivery schedule and feature local personalities — Archie Manning, Irma Thomas, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Andrea Apuzzo, the 610 Stompers — ringing a doorbell and handing copies of The New Orleans Advocateto a surprised homeowner. It’s all set to a jazzy soundtrack and the familiar Yat growl of Ronnie Virgets: “New Orleans is at ya do’ — seven days a week.”

But it’s not all chefs, musicians and sports figures. Among the familiar faces ringing the doorbell are several elected officials: Jefferson Parish President John Young and Sheriff Newell Normand; St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister; and New Orleans City Council Vice President Stacy Head.

“Business is good in Jefferson Parish!” Young says, handing the homeowner a newspaper, while Head announces, “Here’s the latest from the City Council!”

Most newspapers’ marketing departments — including that of The New Orleans Advocate — are completely separate from their newsroom operations. Nonetheless, using elected officials in ads for a newspaper is a new one on Kelly McBride, the house ethics expert at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalism in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Advocate obviously has a competitive relationship with The Times-Picayune,” McBride told Gambit. “If the politicians join The Advocate in sharing that message, what does that say about The Advocate’s ability to critically examine those politicians?”
In any commercial news gathering outfit there are times when the news and marketing divisions are working at cross purposes.  One imagines an ad where politicos show up at your door and tell you what to read might make the news staff uncomfortable. The Gambit addresses this question with journalism ethicist David Craig.
"It raises questions in my mind around the issue of independence, and the principle of acting independently comes into play here, though it may be more of an issue of perception than reality,” Craig said. “It doesn’t make me start worrying that the members of the newsroom aren’t credible, but it does make me wonder what members of the public might think about it.”
Okay, sure, obviously the pros in the newsroom aren't compromised by a TV ad.  But couching this as a mere "perception" problem is too dismissive. John Georges is making himself, his friends, and connections a part of the Advocate brand on purpose.  Eventually that comes to mean something whether that thing is openly stated or not.


raynola said...

You take away nola.com and those Danziger cops would still be...oh, just fuck it.

elsbet said...

Any thoughts as to why Georges was on hand to introduce Honore at Rising Tide last week?