Inside the News Room

Confused by news-media announcements? Hang tight

It’s been an interesting week on the New Orleans news media scene — alliances, partnerships, collaborations, competition — and it’s left people a bit confused.

The short explanation, from The Lens’ perspective, is that we want to continue to expand our cooperative efforts to get our reporting  to as many people as possible, on whatever medium we can use.

On Monday, The Lens announced a collaboration with WWNO-FM and Also that day, we explained that we’re part of an alliance of local online publishers. This morning, the University of New Orleans announced the creation of a major new newsroom, to produce stories online and for WWNO’s new news- and talk-oriented format.

Also, The Advocate announced it will make inroads here, to compete head-to-head in print with The Times-Picayune.

Well-read blogs American Zombie and Library Chronicles raise good questions. They rightly point out that these announcements have been long on concept and short on specifics. For a bunch of news people, we haven’t been very good at answering the kinds of questions we might ask of others.

In part, that’s because many operational specifics haven’t been set. In all of these announcements (and here I’m making presumptions about TheAdvocate), the goal was to announce that SOMEthing is happening.

But just as news operations don’t tout stories that are being developed, in case they fall through (which they frequently do), The Lens and our various reporting and production partners aren’t in a position to explain how these efforts might shake out in the coming months. Some great ideas we have now might quickly run into the buzzsaw of reality. Other good ideas may present themselves.

Of course, The Times-Picayune’s announcement of cutting back print publication — and the debut of’s widely criticized website —  has been the catalyst for most of these moves.

The announcements this week that we’ve been involved with seek to reassure our audiences that this news-rich town won’t be news-outlet poor. And sure, we want to pique the community’s curiosity and start building some interest in these efforts, particularly for fund-raising. (To paraphrase a jingoistic saying, a free press isn’t free.)

As a nonprofit seeking to educate, inform and engage the community, The Lens’ goal is to broaden and supplement the reporting in the New Orleans region. We’re continuing our existing collaborations with outlets such as WVUE-TV and The Louisiana Weekly, working with both on stories this week, even as we announced new reporting partnerships.

The Lens is now in a position to provide its reporting online, in print, on television and on the radio. We’re sensitive to the fact that digitally focused news efforts don’t reach our entire community. And that’s one reason The Lens is helping to produce an event Aug. 8 that will ask readers, listeners and viewers what kind of news they want and how they’d like to have it delivered.

This week’s blast of activity, including Tom Benson’s interest in buying The Times-Picayune, likely isn’t the end of developments in the city’s news media.

The proliferation of news outlets, partnerships, alliances and collaborations should be exciting to the community, even if it’s a little confusing and ill-formed right now. Here at The Lens, we ask for your patience and feedback as we develop our role in these efforts.

As always, we want to hear your thoughts on all of this. Please use the comments section below or drop me a line at





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About Steve Beatty

Steve Beatty is the publisher and chief executive officer of The Lens. He worked as an editor for The Times-Picayune for 15 years, leaving New Orleans just before Katrina to take a position as an editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and quickly rising through the ranks to be an editor of the newspaper’s watchdog investigative team. He returned to New Orleans in May of 2009. He can be reached at (504) 655-2375.

  • A surviving TP reporter asked me if by touting all these new digital “news” sites I was hoping to get back to a 7-day times picayune and how did this strategy get to that result. The truth is I still want a daily newspaper and I hope the advocate enters the market and succeeds beyond wild expectations. Or that Tom Benson starts a daily (why is no one considering taking the Louisiana Weekly to the next level…it has a distribution network). But all the digital announcements are a bit confusing, and will require some education …for all of us who want to use them and not support the newhouses. The glory days of the TP are gone forever. The newshouses should be ashamed of themselves. Anyone can tell Steven Newhouse that at

  • Fair Grinds Coffeehouse according to the Baton Rouge Advocate circulation manager and the New Orleans contract distributor for the Advocate was the first location in the city to ask for daily copies of the BR Advocate. As thin soup as all of these “press releases” are (including the Lens), the facts in the Advocate situation as of 1-week ago when I talked about getting the papers for Fair Grinds, according to their New Orleans distributor, is that there are NO PLANS to expand the sale and distribution of the Advocate past its existing locations along Poydras Avenue. The distributor told me directly that perhaps in 6 to 12 months from fall 2012, he might make his way to our location in Mid-City off of Esplanade, but he had NO PLANS to do so. He also had received no advice or instructions from Baton Rouge that he would need to be prepared in the fall to expand. Sounds like we’ll read a couple of pages of print 3 days a week and listen to hype and holler the rest of the time until something changes.

  • Well,dears, this is perhaps the best article on all of the pertinent issues that I have read. I hope to see more like this and will wait for August 8th. God Bless New Orleans.

  • Dale Westin

    As NPR must maintain a high degree of middle-of-the-roadness due to constant attacks from the right, I worry that any news websites affiliating with our local branch will be curtailed in what they are allowed to say. I appreciate The Lens for its willingness to pull no punches, but will that have to change because of your associations?

  • The Editor

    @Mr. Rathke: The Advocate’s plans are still being developed, from what I hear. Although it would make sense for such a business development to be shared with the front-line folks such as the distributor, they may not have advanced to that point — and you’re right: They might never get there.

    @Dale Westin: The Lens will continue to pursue and publish the kinds of stories that we’ve sunk our teeth in to since early 2010. Our content will be offered to our partners. Whether they take it is up to them. At some point, though, I imagine sophisticated readers will recognize if certain stories of ours are regularly passed over. And this doesn’t apply to just the WWNO effort. We have longstanding collaborations with The Louisiana Weekly and WVUE-TV. They don’t pick up all of our copy, for a variety of reasons (particularly space and time)

    Steve Beatty, managing editor

  • The Editor

    And Rhett’s Wife, it’s good to see you here! I always enjoy your observations and thoughts on other sites.

  • Pat Fitzpatrick

    I know you have to be coy, but some of us suspect Benson’s offer to buy the TP was a warning shot across their bow, so to speak. Now that Newhouse has officially rejected the offer, when will The Lens become the new daily newspaper, with Benson as owner, and hiring many former TP journalists?

    Benson, via WVUE, is already a major contributor to the Len. The “writing” may be on the wall, no?

  • The Editor

    @Pat Fitzpatrick: As much as The Lens would like to grow exponentially, we don’t have designs on becoming a daily newspaper, though we’re flattered that you think we’re up for the task. I should point out that Benson is not a contributor to The Lens. Yes, we’re housed at the WVUE studios, but we pay rent to the station. Our funding is all listed here:
    What we get from our association with WVUE is exposure. Our stories reach a broader audience with WVUE as one of our many collaborating partners.

    As always, thanks for reading us.

    Steve Beatty, managing editor

  • It is disappointing that the Advocate will not engage in widespread distribution and take on the TP directly. Their reporting has, IMHO, always been far better than the TP’s, especially in terms of coverage of State government.

    While I agree that someone needs to step up to the plate and either buy the TP or start their own daily, I am somewhat concerned that Tom Benson might be that person. His control of the Saints, Hornets, WVUE, and influence throughout the community (including the realm of Catholicism; I am not)is of concern. On person should not control the majority of big-time entertainment/social life and the media that reports on it.

    All of that said, if someone does start their own daily, I hope they name it The States-Item to disrespect the Newhouses and their arrogance.