The Advocate has hired a veteran reporter to cover the recovery of Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana from last year’s twin hurricanes.
Mike Smith, 46, joins the newspaper from Agence France-Presse, the French wire service with operations all over the world. Smith had worked for AFP for more than 14 years, including stints as the bureau chief in Lagos, Nigeria; and deputy bureau chief in Jerusalem. He is also the author of a 2015 book about Boko Haram, the jihadist group that has terrorized Nigeria.
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Before moving to France, Smith interned at The Times-Picayune and covered the night police beat at The Advertiser in Lafayette. He then left Louisiana for a job at the Associated Press and from there went to the Providence Journal before moving to France. Smith is a native of Kenner and a graduate of Archbishop Rummel High School and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Smith, who will live in Lake Charles, began his newest posting May 3, arriving just in time to cover President Joe Biden’s visit. His assignment is to chronicle the city and region’s effort to build back after the devastation of Hurricanes Laura and Delta.
Laura, a Category 4 storm, was the strongest hurricane to strike Louisiana in more than a century and a half. Delta, which packed Category 2 winds and substantial rainfall, exacerbated the damage caused by Laura, and took a nearly identical path onshore. A catastrophic winter storm in February wreaked further havoc, busting pipes and leaving city residents without water for days.
While The Advocate is not home-delivered in the Lake Charles region, the newspaper’s editors believed it was important as a public service that the recovery of the state’s fifth-largest city be covered by media outside the immediate area. This was a lesson borne in part of Hurricane Katrina, which was covered by news outlets around the world, helping Americans to understand the needs of southeast Louisiana at a low moment.
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“Americans have a short attention span when it comes to news, but we are committed to keep up with the turmoil and triumphs of Southwest Louisiana as it recovers from these cruel storms,” said Peter Kovacs, editor of The Advocate.
In addition to filing regular dispatches about Lake Charles for the newspaper and the internet, Smith will write a weekly newsletter from Southwest Louisiana that will include summaries of and links to his own reporting as well as highlights of other reporting from the region. To subscribe to the newsletter, enter your email address below.