Newhouse: Advance Media 'absolutely pleased' with 'Times-Pic' evolution
As the newspaper war between The Times-Picayune and The Advocate rages on in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Steven Newhouse—chairman of Advance Media, which publishes The Times-Picayune and Nola.com—tells Daily Report he is "absolutely pleased" with the success The Times-Picayune has had since reducing its print circulation to three days a week.
"We are committed and have no intention of doing anything other than stay the course and continue to work hard to earn the patronage of our readers," Newhouse said in a telephone interview. "I have known [Times-Picayune editor] Jim Amoss for many, many years, and he truly is one of the greatest editors that I have ever met and he continues to be right at the top of his game, and [Advance Media president] Ricky Mathews is really a strong leader and has done a terrific job."
Advance Media came under intense criticism last year when it reduced its print circulation in New Orleans and three other cities, touching off a newspaper war with The Advocate, which moved into the New Orleans market with a daily printed paper.
The Advocate was subsequently acquired by businessman John Georges, who has ramped up the pressure by hiring away a dozen key reporters and editors from The Times-Picayune, which is now building a Baton Rouge bureau of its own.
In a speech to the Baton Rouge Press Club in July, Georges reportedly said he approached Newhouse about trying to buy The Times-Picayune in 2012, shortly after Advance Media announced its plans to reduce the paper's print frequency. With the help of former U.S. Sen. John Breaux, Georges reportedly arranged a meeting with the Newhouse family to see if they were interested in selling The Times-Picayune.
"I thought I got a warm reception, but when I talked to Steve Newhouse he told me, 'Not no, but hell no,' " Georges was quoted as saying in The Advocate.
But Newhouse told Daily Report he never met with Georges or spoke to him.
"I've never talked to him on the phone or anywhere else, and I certainly have never met him," Newhouse said. "Although I am 56 years old, I still remember who I talk to."
In a text message response this morning, Georges said, "Steven is correct. We have never met or spoken. What I said [at the Press Club] was what my lawyers told me he had told them."
Georges was traveling and unavailable for further comment. Newhouse said his family-owned company did and continues to receive many inquiries from parties interested in buying The Times-Picayune but that the company will not sell.
"We had no intention of selling [in 2012] and we continue to have no interest in selling," Newhouse said. "We tell that to anyone who calls."
As to the recent hires made by The Advocate and its aggressive push into New Orleans—The Advocate on Wednesday announced the latest of several high-profile hires it has lured from The Times-Picayune—Newhouse declined to comment.
"I cannot comment on anything anyone else has done," he said. "But I have always believed competition is a good thing."
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