Advocate co-owner John Georges has named Dan Shea to replace him as publisher, the paper’s top executive position.
Georges said he has achieved his goals under his first two years of ownership and wants to spend more time on his other business and civic interests. Georges owns a number of businesses, ranging from Imperial Trading, a convenience store supplier, to the famed Galatoire’s restaurant.
The changes will occur Sept. 1.
“We’ve had great success for the first two years, and now I think it is important to have a publisher who has more experience in journalism and the newspaper industry,” Georges said.
Shea, president of The Advocate, was a longtime managing editor of The Times-Picayune whom Georges hired to run day-to-day operations when he and his wife, Dathel, bought the paper in 2013. Georges quickly assembled a team of award-winning journalists and executives to expand The Advocate brand across south Louisiana and guarantee New Orleans a seven-day, home-delivered newspaper.
In rapid-fire succession, The Advocate relaunched and rebranded its Acadiana and New Orleans newspapers and brought in dozens of talented writers and editors to cover The Advocate’s franchise beats: LSU, the state Legislature and the Saints. At a time when newspapers are shedding subscribers, The Advocate has increased its circulation.
“Our newspaper is a financial success, serving three cities with seven-day home delivery from our state-of-the-art printing plant right here in Louisiana,” Georges said. “More readers and advertisers are moving to The Advocate every week, online and in print.”
In the Baton Rouge area, The Advocate has expanded its community newspapers from two to nine by launching new products and purchasing a chain of weekly newspapers that was threatened with closure. And in New Orleans, it started twice-weekly free community editions that are distributed to 250,000 homes.
The Advocate’s digital properties also are achieving rapid growth and include three websites as well as apps and e-editions of the three papers.
“We are a rarity in the newspaper business,” Georges said. “Our print circulation is growing, as are our ad revenues. I think Dan gets a lot of the credit for that.”
Georges is now building a $13.2 million new headquarters for the paper at the Siegen Lane interchange of I-10, as well as a historic renovation on St. Charles Avenue as the new home for The New Orleans Advocate.
“We will continue to own the paper and lend our support when needed,” he said. Dathel Georges will remain the head of The Advocate’s community advisory boards and president of Georges Media, the holding company for the paper. John Georges is chief executive of Georges Media.
“Although I had the title of publisher, I rarely involved myself in news matters,” Georges said. “I have complete confidence in the team I brought in to manage the paper.”
Shea said the past two years “show the value of a committed local owner in keeping alive quality local journalism.”
Shea, 57, spent 19 years at The Times-Picayune and was one of the key leaders who kept the paper publishing online and in print in the harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina. The Times-Picayune won two Pulitzer Prizes for its efforts.
In addition to his experience in the newsroom, Shea worked in technology and production roles at other newspapers.
The publisher is the top position at a newspaper and supervises all departments while setting long-term strategy.
Shea said his most important priorities are to improve delivery service for print customers, provide good value for advertisers, expand Advocate digital offerings and keep the paper financially sound so that it can continue to practice quality local journalism.
“I see my job as to preserve the important role that The Advocate has played in the civic life of south Louisiana for the past 173 years, and we have a great team to do that,” Shea said.
“We aren’t reluctant to pursue a digital future, but in doing that we are not going to change the core values of what a newspaper means to a community nor abandon the print subscribers and advertisers who built the paper into the largest in Louisiana.”
He said Georges will continue to play an important role as owner of the newspaper.
“His enthusiasm is infectious and we look for him to open doors for our sales team.”