Mainstream media have reason to thank the likes of Alton Broussard.
The former University of Louisiana at Lafayette journalism professor, a St. Martinville native, worked for newspapers in Beaumont, Texas, Lake Charles and New Orleans in the 1930s and ‘40s before a stint in the Office of War Information during World War II. Following the war, the LSU graduate taught journalism for three decades.
From 1962-64, Broussard in his spare time worked first as a consultant, then editor for The Southside Guide, later called The Guide and finally, the Lafayette Guide. It started as a free-distribution weekly, intended to generate advertising revenue while blending a mix of local news — a church column, crime stories, local government meetings — to wrap around ads from customers like LaFonda restaurant, Lafayette Lanes and Doug Ashy Lumber, all located on what was then the Abbeville Highway.
“No effort is made to present ‘spot’ or hard news,” declared the paper, which sought to serve the burgeoning Southside and its 16,000 people.
Things changed. The paper was produced from Broussard’s home garage on Duclos Street. Staff consisted of family and friends and young kids who threw the paper — “volunteers,” a son suggested, “the willing and unwilling.” Broussard dropped the consultant role for editorship.
News got edgier. The paper covered race relations and gang fights and commented freely through its locally generated editorial page.
Broussard’s children, who last month donated to UL’s library a bound volume of the two years of The Guide’s publication, said their father was not necessarily inclined to go along to get along with Lafayette’s establishment. They said when Lafayette’s mayor cut a deal with the established news media — the city would smooth integration at three local lunch counters, which the news media agreed to not cover — Broussard instead showed up with a camera. He published an Oct. 31, 1963 story about it.
On Dec. 5, 1963, The Guide expressed its support for Chep Morrison for governor, citing his “moderate views on integration.” In a year-end edition, The Guide said civil rights would be major news in 1964 and chided those who thought it best to ignore race relations.
The Guide lasted but two years. It was solvent but couldn’t generate paid advertising to make it profitable. Nonetheless, it was one of many Lafayette alternative news publications that challenged the status quo, troubled our community conscience and woke our city from an oh-so-comfortable slumber.