The Advocate adds veteran New Orleans editors, reporters

Four leading editors and reporters from The Times-Picayune, including Pulitzer Prize winners who covered Hurricane Katrina, signed up to work for The Advocate on Wednesday, a week after businessman John Georges bought the daily newspaper and promised to beef up its operations in New Orleans.

Martha Carr was named managing editor for the New Orleans Advocate, overseeing its operations, as Sara Pagones shifts from New Orleans to St. Tammany Parish to the position of bureau chief.

Gordon Russell will be managing editor for investigations.

Also joining The Advocate in New Orleans are reporters Claire Galofaro and Andrew Vanacore.

Carr, Russell and Pagones were part of a team that received two Pulitzer Prizes for The Times-Picayune’s work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s a privilege to welcome these great journalists to The Advocate,” said Peter Kovacs, the newspaper’s editor. “They will help us advance our goal of publishing separate newspapers for New Orleans and Baton Rouge that are tailored to the needs of two very different communities.”

“We are committed to improving the quality of the New Orleans Advocate,” Georges said. “The Advocate will continue to invest in news and give New Orleanians what they want — a truly local, seven-day home-delivery newspaper,” he said.

Carr, a Louisiana native and 16-year veteran of The Times-Picayune, will supervise an expanding bureau that will cover the metro area. Carr worked as a reporter covering suburban and city politics until the fall of 2005, when she was promoted to an editor’s post on The Times-Picayune’s city desk. She served as the newspaper’s first online news editor.

Carr said her job is to bring “responsible, thoughtful daily journalism” to New Orleans. “New Orleans is the best news town in the country,” she said. “It’s a privilege to work as a journalist there.”

Russell, a 14-year Times-Picayune veteran, was the newspaper’s leading investigative reporter. He wrote a series of stories on discrepancies in property tax assessments and was the first journalist to raise questions about former Mayor Ray Nagin’s involvement with a granite countertop business that secured business referrals from a retailer seeking city concessions. Russell served as city editor of the newspaper.

Russell said he will work on investigative stories with Advocate reporters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The plan is to tackle pieces that have an impact locally and statewide, he said.

“There’s an excellent opportunity here,” Russell said. “Louisiana has a colorful history, shall we say, of political corruption. We’re committed to digging those stories out. That’s one of the jobs of a newspaper.”

Pagones, formerly a writer and editor with The Times-Picayune, started up The Advocate’s bureau in New Orleans in summer 2012. With a small staff, Pagones increased The Advocate’s circulation to about 20,000 copies a day, twice what Advocate officials expected when they launched its New Orleans edition in October.

Pagones, who has lived in St. Tammany for the past 30 years, said she’s pleased to get a chance to lead a bureau in her community.

“St. Tammany is the fastest-growing parish in Louisiana,” she said. “It’s an area with an awful lot of news and interesting stories.”

Galofaro has covered courts in St. Tammany Parish and New Orleans for The Times-Picayune, as well as city hall. She followed the trail of the band of outlaws accused of shooting four St. John Parish sheriff’s deputies, discovering a series of frightening brushes with the law from Nebraska to Tennessee to Louisiana.

Vanacore covered the New Orleans charter school movement, landmark elections for the state school board in 2011 and the controversial education reform proposals that Gov. Bobby Jindal backed in the state Legislature last year. Vanacore’s reporting led the state school board to end its contract with one New Orleans charter school accused of various improprieties, including an alleged attempt to bribe a state official investigating the campus.

“These new hires represent the best and the brightest of local talent and allow us to meet the demands of our growing local subscriber base,” Georges said.