The newspaper business provides opportunities for those willing to introduce new ideas without throwing out key elements that make for great journalism, Advocate Publisher John Georges told a Loyola University forum Tuesday night. “I’m one of those disrupters, outsiders that bring expertise from the outside in a way that doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Georges said.
Georges, the publisher of The Advocate, The New Orleans Advocate and The Acadiana Advocate, discussed his role at those papers at the first event in Loyola’s National News Engagement speaker series. The event was sponsored by the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Community Development and the School of Mass Communication.
In describing the role of a publisher, Georges said it is important for the leader of a media company to assemble a good team and then give them the freedom and trust to do their jobs.
“You have to be trusted to be a leader. You have to provide the resources the team needs; you have to assemble the talent and have a strong focus on the employees,” he said.
The big challenges faced by the newspaper industry focus around costs rather than revenues, Georges said, noting that The Advocate was profitable when he purchased it last year. That means it is likely the industry will see more consolidation as companies try to reduce their costs.
“I think there’s going to be winners and losers,” Georges said. “There are going to be retreaters and advancers. We’re advancing; our competition is retreating.”
Georges described the paper’s fight for the New Orleans market as still in its early stages, comparing it to storming the beaches at Normandy and saying the Battle of the Bulge remains to be fought. He said he doesn’t expect The New Orleans Advocate to be the only paper in the market anytime soon.
“We’re up against people with deep pockets, bigger corporate objectives,” Georges said. “Our plan is not to be the only newspaper in New Orleans. Our plan is to be the best newspaper in New Orleans.”
In discussing speculation about a future run for office, Georges, who has run unsuccessfully for governor and mayor of New Orleans, said the paper provides a way for him to provide a public service without holding office.
In answer to another question about how owning the newspaper had affected him personally, he said his wife, Dathel, was “glad I wouldn’t be running for governor.”
Georges said it wasn’t clear whether The Advocate’s approach can be replicated. He recalled telling community leaders in Shreveport who were interested in a similar endeavor that it was difficult to say whether the model would work in other communities.
“We’re New Orleans,” Georges said. “We’ve been contrarians and countercyclical our entire existence.”
And, he said, there are still more plans for the paper on the horizon.
“You haven’t seen every play in the playbook,” he said.