In May 2013, New Orleans businessman John Georges bought Baton Rouge’s beloved family-owned newspaper The Advocate. At a time when media companies around the country have been down-sizing, shutting up shop, or going exclusively digital, the Baton Rouge Advocate has expanded into Acadiana and into New Orleans, ultimately vanquishing its rival there with the acquisition of the New Orleans Times Picayune. And the newspaper expansion has continued – now encompassing statewide more community papers than you can count on two hands, including New Orleans’ alternative weekly, Gambit.
We’ve known for some time that John Georges is one of the smartest business people in Louisiana. What we didn’t know, until his foray into newspapers, is that he is apparently one of the smartest business people in the USA. With over 8,000 journalists laid off nationwide over 2018-19, no-less than the President of the US repeatedly assailing the press and journalists as “the enemy of the people,” and media pundits referring to this era as “Mediapocalypse,” it is instructive for the country and for lovers of a free and fair press to understand what exactly is the John Georges business model that allows him to keep growing The Advocate.
The person tasked with executing the Georges doctrine is Judi Terzotis, Publisher at The Advocate.
Judi is a veteran media executive, who grew up in Tennessee and spent 25 years of her career at Gannett—where she spent four years as president of Gannett Louisiana and two years as president of its Gulf Region, which includes five papers in Louisiana, two in Mississippi and one in Alabama.
Judi joined The Advocate parent company, Georges Media Group, in January 2018. Since then, Judi has grown the staff and circulation of The Acadiana Advocate, and played a key role in combining The New Orleans Advocate, The Times Picayune and its popular online platform NOLA.com, after the New Orleans acquisitions in 2019.
Host of Out to Lunch Baton Rouge, Stephanie Riegel, is a veteran journalist herself, having worked in TV and print for over two decades and currently serving as editor of the Baton Rouge Business Report. This one-on-one conversation over lunch at Mansurs on the Boulevard is a rare and valuable opportunity to understand the current state of both local and national media organizations and especially the future of news delivery.
You can check out other conversations over lunch about local media here.