Jul 22, 201310:12 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
For Whom the Nell Tolls: Society Notes for the Newhouses
In case you missed the front page of The Advocate Sunday, the announcement of Nell Nolan going to that newspaper had some very pointed language, especially in the first two paragraphs (boldface added):
Nell Nolan, who has spent more than three decades chronicling the city’s Mardi Gras royalty, debutantes and charity balls for The Times-Picayune is bringing her coverage of the New Orleans social scene to the city’s daily newspaper The Advocate.
That was for starters, now the second paragraph:
"I am very excited to be working with a staff of colleagues whom I have read and respected for years, very excited about the new local owner and very excited that we have a daily, home-delivered newspaper,” Nolan said.
And in case you’re still not certain about her being pleased, Nolan’s other comments seemed far from retiring:
"I’m thrilled to be able to deliver social and society news to a readership whom I have loved and have worked with for 34 years."
Two days earlier, on Friday, The T-P had announced Nolan’s departure and described it as “retirement.” For those who are keeping score, the wording provides a technical hedge – instead of jumping from The T-P to The Advocate, I guess it should properly be said that she retired from The T-P, and then accepted an Advocate position although the announcement of her arrival was probably written by the time of her departure. Whatever the proper terminology, it is a big deal.
There are some people who sniff at society reporting, but such coverage plays an important role for the newspaper that carries it and for the community. The newspaper benefits by people anxiously looking for their pictures; for the community the pay-off is that most of the events covered are charitable fundraisers. Many, if not all, of the city’s nonprofits are supported, at least in part, by such events. Newspaper coverage provides important incentive and recognition for all of the mostly volunteer workers who stage such events. Our nonprofits would be poorer were it not for the society pages.
In New Orleans, Carnival gives the pages an extra importance, making the newspaper the voice of the social scene. And, no it’s not just about the so-called “blue bloods,” even though many of them are among those who buy the high price tickets for the fundraisers.
Society pages are part of the machinery of how a city works.
(Sue Strachan, who will replace Nolan at The T-P formerly worked for our company, Renaissance Publishing, as editor of St. Charles Avenue magazine. She knows the players and the turf within the world of social coverage. She is a good choice.)
According to rumors, Nolan’s coverage will appear three times a week. Another coup for The Advocate, photo coverage of events by renowned photographer Steven Forster, also a T-P alumnus, will appear twice weekly.
There are more rumors, and they are newsworthy because so far most of the Advocate rumors have been accurate:
- A major design and rebranding are on the way with the debut most likely for September.
- Originally it was thought The Advocate would change its name from The Advocate: New Orleans Edition to The New Orleans Advocate. Now it will more likely be The Advocate New Orleans. Upriver, the daily will be known as The Advocate Baton Rouge. (This approach supposedly helps keep the papers in line alphabetically. One slight problem though for web searches is that there is a long time gay magazine known simply as The Advocate.)
So those are the rumors. Now for a fact, and it is significant. In last Friday’s Advocate there was a front-page story by former T-P reporter Mike Perlstein who does not work for The Advocate but for WWL TV, Ch. 4. The story, which included a WWL logo, was the first major example of the new relationships between newspapers and television stations. (The Advocate has a tie-in with WWL; The T-P with WVUE, Fox 8.) In return we will be seeing newspaper reporters on their corresponding television stations.
Journalism is changing in big ways. Whatever happens though, Mr. Newhouse, there will always be a passion for daily newspapers.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), is due to be released Oct. 31, 2013. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12.