Georges tells journalism students future is promising

John Georges, owner and publisher of The Advocate, was upbeat about newspapers in general and about his in particular when speaking Saturday to college reporters at the Southeast Journalism Conference in Lafayette.

“Don’t listen to anything that they’re saying about your future. It’s going to be really exciting,” Georges told a crowd of students at the Lafayette Hilton, discounting the dismal narrative that’s often heard about the future of newspapers.

Georges, a New Orleans businessman, bought The Advocate last year from its longtime owners, the Manship family.

He said he is confident the venture will be profitable.

“Newspapers are still going to be around for a long time, whether it’s digital or whether it’s in print, and we’re the company that’s banking on that,” he said.

When Georges purchased the Baton Rouge-based newspaper last year, The Advocate was printing separate editions in New Orleans and Lafayette.

Those two editions have since been enhanced and rebranded as The New Orleans Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate. The company quickly built up an editorial staff in New Orleans to compete against the Times-Picayune, which cut its print edition to three days a week in 2012.

“It’s the paper by name and not the paper that they’re accustomed to,” Georges said of the Times-Picayune. “They’re accustomed to reading a seven-day paper.”

Georges said The Advocate is in a unique and favorable position to grow, having a presence in three cities — Lafayette, New Orleans and Baton Rouge — that are surrounded by burgeoning suburban areas. He said The Advocate is competing in Lafayette and New Orleans with newspapers owned by national chains that might not be as nimble or experimental in efforts to serve readers.

“We are watching both sides. They are watching us, but we are having great success,” Georges said.

Georges told the students that, despite the naysayers, he believes newspaper journalism is entering a new golden era, albeit one where digital media and emerging technologies will play an ever more critical role.

“Right now, we have a renaissance and a revolution going on,” he said.