SADOW: The Advocate Seems About To Invade The Shreveport Market

Substantial change may be on the way to Shreveport-area media if apparent plans by Louisiana’s largest newspaper come to fruition.

The Advocate, based in Baton Rouge but with papers also operating in New Orleans, Lafayette, and Lake Charles, looks to be poking around to publishing a version in Shreveport. Its publisher recently toured the area meeting with various individuals. One idea seemingly broached was to set up a fund to supplement area reporting, hoping to draw bucks from local individuals and corporations.

Already the Advocate has something like this in place, called the Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund. It has a relationship with the Greater New Orleans Foundation, headed up by political operative Andy Kopplin who prior to this gig worked for Republican former Gov. Mike Foster, Democrat former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and Democrat former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. It allows for tax-free donations that the organization passes through and has attracted several high-profile donors plus a huge gift from the leftist Ford Foundation.

While the contemplated move would appear mainly directed at the daily Shreveport Times – which, mirroring large portions of the print media this century, has seen a precipitous decline in fortunes to the point for its claimed four-parish service area of nearly 400,000 people it now covers with one general assignment, one entertainment, and one sports reporter – it’s the publisher of the weekly FOCUS SB/The Inquisitor who has raised a squawk about it. John Settle complained about how his paper and the only one in Bossier Parish, the Bossier Press-Tribune, didn’t have the benefit of a foundation despite their many years in the community and so this development would produce an unequal playing field.

Of course, nothing stops Settle from pursuing that idea, but the fact is his weekly publication does little in the way of its own reporting, relying mostly on news releases. Nor does he have the resources of Advocate owner John Georges, whose wealth extends well into nine figures, that could buffer his newspaper and inspire confidence in advertisers.

Yet the real story here is that the Advocate wouldn’t come sniffing around if the local market, which also contains the niche weekly newspaper and historically black-owned Shreveport Sun, had papers sufficiently been covering the news, especially outside of sports and entertainment. One GA reporter from the Times can cover only the occasional story about politics with nothing approaching regular coverage of governments and their institutions.


The weekly papers do little better when it comes to local news. Rarely does FOCUS SB (it is half of an issue, with the other Inquisitor portion dominated by news releases from local law enforcement and mug shots of their arrestees) provide original news reporting on government actions, while the Press-Tribune essentially abandoned local coverage other than sports months ago and now also relies heavily on news releases and content cribbed from other sites that distribute state news freely.

And what little local hard news appears in coverage mostly concerns Caddo Parish. Maybe twice a month the Press-Tribune will run the news releases put out by Bossier Parish or Bossier City, and once in a blue moon either the Times or FOCUS SB will do even that. Rarely is any original reporting presented; for that, interested consumers would have to turn to the web sites of local television stations or KEEL radio where items about Caddo governments, both original and news releases, are fairly frequent and occasionally some Bossier coverage pops up as well. Of course, these crib from what these outlets broadcast. The most comprehensive original reporting about Bossier comes from a nontraditional media outlet, the web site BossierNow.

Area newspapers also virtually have discontinued any local opinion pieces. If it weren’t for FOCUS SB, it would be zero, and almost all of those feature Caddo governments. It’s little wonder why alternative providers of opinion about Bossier politics, such as the Bossier Views newsletter (mirrored in BossierNow), Bossier Watch narrowcast, and the 2 Guys 1 Sidewalk podcasts, each have built consumer bases in the hundreds.

Simply put, as far as print newspapers go, Caddo and Bossier politics reporting, whether news or opinion, is dramatically underserved, with it on Bossier almost essentially nonexistent. There’s a huge vacuum waiting for filling by an outlet willing to commit resources, and that could be the Advocate. It’s better something does that than leave the present inadequate efforts in place as the only print news sources.



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