New Orleans is officially a one newspaper town - and it's The Times Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate.
In May, the Advocate purchased its rival news organization and now the two brands have merged. WWNO's Karl Lengel spoke with the paper's editor, Peter Kovacs.
Q: What does this mean for the market? We're going from two papers to one, is that a good thing?
Well, we're going to one, hopefully, greater newspaper and we're restoring the Times-Picayune to daily home delivery which is what the community always wanted, and hopefully making it better in the process. So most communities this size have one daily newspaper so New Orleans was unusual and of course this went on for seven years so maybe people got used to it. But San Antonio has one daily newspaper, Atlanta has one daily newspaper, so it sort of puts New Orleans back in the norm.
Q: And what do we expect on Monday, what's the short term change that we notice immediately?
Well on Monday we will deliver a copy of The Times-Picayune the New Orleans Advocate, the joint publication, to every Advocate subscriber, who of course - those people are used to getting a daily newspaper because they've been getting one for seven years - and to every Times-Picayune subscriber. And of course for them it'll be the first time in seven years that they got that newspaper on their yard on Monday. And we're going to do that all week. And so from today, Monday, till the 7th, Sunday, subscribers will get a daily newspaper and there will be a wrap-around newsprint sheet on it urging them to convert to daily delivery, which, there's an up charge for that. It's a few pennies a day, but it costs more to throw seven newspapers a week than it does to throw three newspapers a week. And then on the 8th, which is a week from today, people who have not upgraded will not get a paper on Monday and so I suspect a lot of them will say “Oh, what the heck happened here,” and call up and we'll get more people to upgrade.
Q: What are the advantages? You've certainly talked about the technical - getting that paper delivered to you - but the content and the editorial - as we move ahead, what are the advantages to what we're doing with this?
Well I think the Times-Picayune is still a great brand. People here love it. In fact this week I met with Times-Picayune subscribers because we wanted to hear them out about what they loved about the Times-Picayune and what their concerns were with this deal. And you know people love the Times-Picayune. They love the journalism. They did not like the three-day-a-week delivery schedule. And really the reason that, if this was a newspaper war, the reason it ended up this way was because the three-day-a-week delivery schedule was a mistake.
Q: Is there considerable downsizing in staff? We've been told that that does have to happen, of course. Has that been able to accommodate pretty much both newspapers as you go into this merger?
We hired more than two dozen people from the Times-Picayune. That includes not just news people but ad salespeople and circulation people. One thing that's funny when there are layoffs in the newspaper industry, because the coverage is written by the news department, they tend to forget that there's other departments too, that we're dependent on to run our company. So there's about two dozen more employees. There are Times-Picayune employees. There are probably about 20 to 22 Times-Picayune employees who interviewed with us who we were not able to offer positions to. Of the two dozen, about half of the new employees coming over from the Picayune will be news employees. And a number of Times-Picayune employees, in fact I'd say 45 percent of them, either didn't ask us for an interview or maybe they met with us and then they weren't interested in the job that we were talking about. For example quite a few of them didn't want to work nights and weekends. So some of the people I guess decided to leave town or get out of the business.