The Advocate newspaper and their journalistic ancestors have been a vital force in Louisiana's capital city and the surrounding communities for more than 160 years.
The Advocate is a morning newspaper published daily since 1925. An Acadiana edition with news pertaining to Lafayette and the parishes of Acadiana is published daily, Monday through Saturday.
The newspaper is owned by Capital City Press, founded in 1909 by Charles P. Manship Sr. and James Edmonds. Manship purchased his partner's interest in 1912, and today the publishing company is owned and operated by the founder's four grandchildren: David Manship, who is the publisher/COO of The Advocate; Richard Manship, President and Chief Executive Officer of Capital City Press and Louisiana Television Broadcasting (WBRZ), and a member of the Capital City Press board of directors; Dina Manship Planche, a member of the board of directors; and Douglas Manship Jr., member of the board of directors.
As of 2010, The Advocate had a daily (M-F) circulation of 93,185, and on Sunday a circulation of 116,432.
The founding news principle established by Charles Manship Sr. in 1909 for his recently acquired publication was stated on the front page of its first edition. The editorial informed its readers, "It is our intention to print a newspaper whose editorials are not for sale, and whose news items cannot be suppressed, a newspaper commensurate with hopes and plans of Baton Rouge." The editorial also said the newspaper would remain "free to look the world in the face" and "to dare to tell the truth of any man living."
That initial editorial established a policy that continues today - almost a century later.
Today's Advocate traces its publishing history back to The Democratic Advocate, a newspaper founded in 1842 with an agenda of defeating the local candidates of the rival Whig political party. The newspaper scene was in constant flux during the period of the Civil War, with newspapers, and editors in transition. The Louisiana Capitolian appeared in 1868, and soon merged with the re-named Weekly Advocate. By 1889 the Advocate was being published daily, and in 1904 a new owner, William Hamilton, renamed it The Baton Rouge Times, and the paper became The State-Times. The newly formed Capital City Press owned by Manship and Edmonds purchased the State-Times in 1909.
Huey P. Long Era
The State-Times, an afternoon publication with emphasis on local news, was published until October 1991, when television news, and the public's changing reading habits forced its closure. Capital City Press had created The Morning Advocate in 1925 to provide a growing population with an early edition of the news provided by the local reporting staff and wire services, a vital source of local, national and international information in those days prior to radio and television. The new publication was an immediate success, enjoying a wide circulation in the towns and rural communities surrounding Baton Rouge.
During the turbulent era of the Huey P. Long leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Manship maintained the independence of his newspapers, continuing to publish an objective view of the news, and criticizing the administration on certain issues, despite extreme pressure, at times, from the Huey Long forces.
In 1934, Manship established WJBO, the first radio station in Baton Rouge, and the first of several media ventures that would eventually include an FM radio station, WFMF, and WBRZ-TV. (For a chronicle of WBRZ through the decades, read WBRZ History.)
From the beginning, the Manship family has played a direct role in the policy, operation and development of the Capital City Press publications. Charles Manship's son, Charles Manship Jr., became editor and publisher of the two newspapers on his father's death in 1947. Under his guidance, the publishing company grew. The newspaper moved from its Florida Street building on the completion of the building at 525 Lafayette St. in 1953. In 1970, Charles Manship Jr. became president of Capital City Press, and his only sibling, Douglas Manship Sr., became editor and publisher.
During Douglas Manship's leadership, the old hot-lead printing presses were replaced by a computerized production center at 6700 Bluebonnet Blvd., doubling its printing capacity with two 12-unit letterpresses, along with the newest technology for inserting pre-printed advertising material and circulation needs. Also, the newspapers' coverage was expanded with the opening of news bureaus at Louisiana's nearby State Capitol and in Washington, D.C. News bureaus with staffs are also located in Lafayette, the Westside, the River Parishes, the Florida Parishes and Baker-Zachary.
In 1989, David C. Manship, one of Douglas Manship's four children, was named associate publisher. After the closure of the State-Times in 1991, Douglas Manship Sr. became president of Capital City Press, and David Manship was named publisher. Charles Manship died in 1994.
In In 1996, Douglas Manship Jr., who had worked as Capital City Press's correspondent in Washington, and later as news feature editor and editorial writer for the two newspapers, was named director of the company's newly formed online operations. Douglas Manship Sr. died in 1999. Later that year David Manship stepped down and Douglas Manship Jr. became publisher of the Advocate.
The Advocate moved from its offices in downtown Baton Rouge to new offices at 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd. in October of 2005. The facility on Bluebonnet Blvd. is a 150,000 square foot building on properties owned by the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart's Family and with long-term lease agreements with Capital City Press. The deteriorating condition of the offices at 525 Lafayette made the move necessary. The downtown building was torn down in 2008 and the property is currently up for sale.
In November, 2006, a new production center on Reiger Road replaced the Bluebonnet Road production center and its 1950s era letterpresses, which had far outlived their expected life span. The new production center houses a massive six-story tall MAN Roland Regioman offset press, as well as new packaging equipment giving the newspaper a wide range of operations for printing and packaging the newspaper and other publications.
Upon Douglas Manship's retirement in 2007, David Manship returned as publisher and Chief Operating Officer.
Georges buys The Advocate
John Georges, who took over a small family company and transformed it into a billion-dollar business, completed a deal May 7, 2013 to buy The Advocate.
Georges named two veteran Louisiana journalists as senior executives. Georges said he will serve as publisher of The Advocate and he named Dan Shea as general manager and Peter Kovacs as editor. Georges said he will meet Wednesday with the newspaper's 450 employees.
"The Advocate is a strong brand with dedicated employees and a supportive community," Georges said. "In addition to one of the newest and most state-of-the-art print production facilities in the industry, The Advocate has impressive digital capabilities. Together, these components ensure The Advocate will thrive for a long time to come."
David Manship, who was publisher of The Advocate, said while it was a "sad day" to sell his interest in a newspaper he had been involved with for 40 years, it is going into good hands. "John is a very capable businessman," Manship said. "He's a true Louisianian and he will do an excellent job to carry on the tradition that the paper has established."