Advocate snags Times-Picayune, New Orleans newspaper competition is no more

The New Orleans Advocate's downtown office on St. Charles Avenue The Acadiana Advocate

The gist: New Orleans businessman John Georges and his wife Dathel, owners of The Advocate, announced today they have purchased the assets of The Times-Picayune and from Advance Local Media.

The Georges have been competing with the T-P since their 2013 purchase of the Baton Rouge-based daily, which expanded into the New Orleans market in 2012 under its previous ownership after the T-P slashed its staff and cut print circulation to three days a week. The couple also owns The Acadiana Advocate, which took a different competitive tack earlier this year when it raided Lafayette’s Daily Advertiser newsroom. Like The Advocate, the Times-Picayune is privately held, and no purchase price was disclosed.

Informal talk of a buyout has bandied between Georges and Advance Local over the last several years, Advocate President Judi Terzotis says. Georges began more aggressively pursuing the Times-Picayune in December.

Now what? The Advocate, which won its first Pulitzer Prize this year, will publish a seven-day, home-delivered newspaper in New Orleans using the brands of both publications. The new paper will debut in June under the combined New Orleans Advocate Times-Picayune nameplate, Terzotis says, noting the T-P brand is too important to the city to discard. New Orleans Advocate digital content will be redirected to the site.

A big competitive win for Georges, the move is “the best course to preserve the quality of journalism that both news organizations are known for,” the two companies note in a Thursday press release announcing the deal. The T-P has been publishing since 1837 (it became the Times-Picayune in 1914 when The Picayune merged with the Times-Democrat.)

In early 2017, The New Orleans Advocate opened new offices at 840 St. Charles Avenue, creating a more visible downtown presence. At the time, the building housed about 50 New Orleans-based journalists and advertising sales staff, as well as offices for the owners and publisher.

What we don’t know: What this will mean for T-P/’s newsroom. The Advocate says in the release that company-wide it employs more than 110 journalists, a number it claims “dwarfs the size of newsrooms at much larger papers.” The Advocate will be expanding its New Orleans news, advertising and circulation staff by hiring from current and Times-Picayune employees, according to the release. But because only the T-P’s assets were purchased, the T-P’s payroll is not guaranteed employment. People will be looking for jobs. — Additional reporting by Christiaan Mader