MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
One year ago, New Orleans' newspaper, the Times-Picayune, laid off dozens of newsroom employees. It cut its paper-and-ink edition to three days a week. And the Web site, nola.com, became the company's focus. Many residents were shocked, outraged, indignant.
But unlike many cities where the paper newspaper is increasingly a thing of the past, the Times-Picayune has some new paper competition. That story from Eve Troeh, of member station WWNO.
EVE TROEH, BYLINE: Open the door of the Fair Grinds coffee shop, and you hear them laugh.
(sOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE LAUGHING)
TROEH: These friends meet every morning, have for at least 20 years; to talk over coffee and the morning paper - emphasis on paper. Like many in New Orleans, they are fiercely loyal, and worship routine. When the Times-Picayune ceased to thump on their doorsteps daily, merged with NOLA.com and laid off their friends, nurse Sharron Morrow says this group banished it.
SHARRON MORROW: I've stopped my subscription, and I mourn the paper almost every day.
TROEH: What about the new daily paper? The Advocate, based 80 miles away in Baton Rouge, launched a New Orleans edition last year to fill this gap in the market. Lawyer Sue Rapaski tells Morrow, she isn't having it.
SUE RAPASKI: The Advocate is just like reading a high school paper. I really hate it.
MORROW: It's getting better as they get to know our needs and then hopefully, they'll have a big presence down here.
TROEH: Big plans are afoot. The Baton Rouge Advocate has a larger-than-life new owner in New Orleans. Multimillionaire John Georges was one of the local movers and shakers furious at the Times-Picayune's changes - and at owners the Newhouse family, based in New York, for their refusal to sell the paper to a local buyer.
JOHN GEORGES: We fought the Battle of New Orleans once before; some people think we are going to fight it again in the newspaper.
TROEH: Georges bought The Advocate from its longtime family owners, and his desire to take on the Picayune is epic.
GEORGES: You don't have to read history of the Trojan Wars to understand what a handful of great warriors that are motivated can do, to overcome. That's a reference to my Greek ancestry.
TROEH: His warriors are highly motivated. Leading the charge, Dan Shea. The new general manager of The Advocate was laid off from The Times-Picayune. In the weeks since he's been hired to run the paper, a slew of prize-winning reporters has jumped from The Times-Picayune to The Advocate. Shea says subscriptions in New Orleans are growing.
DAN SHEA: The notion of going into another newspaper's primary market and convincing their readers to read yours is - it's a fool's errand, except when you so break the bonds of your brand with your readers. And it's created this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
TROEH: But The Times-Picayune, now officially called The Times-Picayune NOLA.com has its weapons, too.
LARRY HOLDER: Hello, and welcome to Black and Gold today, here at NOLA.com, your daily snapshot of all things New Orleans Saints. I'm Larry Holder, Saints' beat writer for NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune.
TROEH: That's a new, daily web video about NFL team the Saints, part of the company's aggressive digital strategy. NOLA.com and Times-Picayune editor Jim Amoss says New Orleans is more wired than it gets credit for. But to appease the traditional ink lovers, the company has a new, printed tabloid that will fill in the days the full paper doesn't print.
JIM AMOSS: We're the hometown newspaper and by far, the largest news organization in this area. And I don't say that boastingly; that's just a fact. We'll see what the competition brings.
TROEH: He says there's a bigger appetite for local news in New Orleans than the city's size might suggest. This is a town obsessed with itself and its image.
(SOUNDBITE OF HAIR CLIPPER)
TROEH: At Mr. Chill's Barber Shop, owner Wilbert "Chill" Wilson cleans up a neckline. He's kept his Times-Picayune subscription but on Monday morning - means no paper; and all the flying hair isn't friendly to an iPad. Wilson has not subscribed to The Advocate, says it doesn't feel local.
WILBERT WILSON: Nobody has done a great job yet that is fulfilling to the community in New Orleans.
TROEH: In this city's newspaper war, he's stuck in the middle.
For NPR News, I'm Eve Troeh in New Orleans.
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