Advocate in talks with potential buyer

Advocate staff file photo -- The Advocate's Administration Building at 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd. in Baton Rouge, La.
Advocate staff file photo -- The Advocate's Administration Building at 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd. in Baton Rouge, La.

Capital City Press, which owns The Advocate, is in talks with a potential buyer for Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper.

Richard Manship, president and CEO of Capital City Press, said the interested party is a private individual, not a chain. No specific offer has been made for the newspaper, Manship said, and he isn’t sure if an actual bid will be submitted. If an offer is made, Manship said he expects it would come in the next couple of weeks.

Manship said a sale of The Advocate will be considered, if the price is right.

The potential buyer is not interested in purchasing WBRZ-TV, which the Manship family also owns. Manship said the ABC affiliate is not for sale.

Over the years, a number of potential buyers have expressed interest in The Advocate, one of the few family-owned daily newspapers still in existence. But Manship said no one has previously made an actual offer to buy the publication.

The Advocate’s average weekday circulation is about 98,000 and Sunday circulation is about 125,000 — boosted by its recent entry into the New Orleans market. New Orleans accounts for about 22,000 issues daily, said Dean Blanchard, the newspaper’s circulation director.

In March, the newspaper’s weekday circulation was 76,263, according to figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

The Advocate launched its daily New Orleans edition in October to fill the void created in the Crescent City by The Times-Picayune’s switch to a three-day-a-week print edition. The Advocate also offers a daily Acadiana edition.

The entry into New Orleans has lifted The Advocate’s circulation at a time when the vast majority of newspapers are seeing steady declines.

At the same time, The Advocate has been moving aggressively to disseminate news through its website — theadvocate.com — and various digital platforms and apps.

The newspaper has undergone a number of changes in recent years.

In 2005, The Advocate moved out of downtown Baton Rouge into an office at 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd. that is owned by the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart’s Family Worship Center. The next year, a new printing facility opened off Siegen Lane.

The newspaper took on substantial debt in the move and in the purchase and installation of a new printing press and ancillary equipment. Asked if the debt could be a factor in the potential sale, Manship said the debt has been reduced by two-thirds but that “everything is a factor.”

The Advocate’s history goes back to The Democratic Advocate, a weekly newspaper established in 1842. As the name indicates, The Democratic Advocate was a partisan publication, squaring off with The Gazette, which was aligned with the Whig Party. By 1854, the paper had changed its name to The Daily Advocate, to reflect its new publishing schedule.

In 1904, William Hamilton, of Shreveport, bought the Advocate and changed its name to the Times. One of the reporters hired at the Times was Charles P. Manship Sr. That year, another paper started in Baton Rouge, The State.

By 1907 the State and the Times had merged. Capital City Press, a company founded by Manship and James Edmonds, purchased the State-Times in 1909 for about $28,000.

A few months after Capital City Press bought The State-Times, Edmonds took a job as a foreign correspondent with The New York Herald. By 1912, Manship was the sole owner of Capital City Press, along with being editor and publisher.

In 1925 Manship began publishing another paper, The Morning Advocate, to go along with The State-Times. For more than 50 years, the circulation of both The Morning Advocate and The State-Times continued to grow, along with Baton Rouge.

But the rise of evening television news and changing family demographics reduced the demand for an afternoon newspaper. In 1991, The State-Times folded.