The Advocate hires new editor for investigations

The Advocate hired a managing editor of investigations Wednesday, a week after businessman John Georges bought the daily newspaper and promised to protect the quality of the capital city’s newspaper and expand its push into New Orleans.

Gordon Russell, a leading editor from The Times-Picayune, who was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team that covered Hurricane Katrina, will work on stories with Advocate reporters in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The plan is to tackle pieces that have impact locally and statewide, Russell said.

“There’s an excellent opportunity here,” he 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.”

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 New Orleans 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 was one of four reporters and editors from The Times-Picayune who signed up to work for The Advocate on Wednesday. The others are Martha Carr, who will serve as managing editor for the newspaper’s New Orleans operations, and reporters Claire Galofaro and Andrew Vanacore.

Sara Pagones, who had led The Advocate’s bureau in New Orleans since it opened in summer 2012, will become the chief for a new bureau in St. Tammany Parish, where she lives.

Georges, the CEO and publisher of the newspaper, said he is committed to improving the quality of the newspaper in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“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,” he said.

“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.”