NEW ORLEANS -- The weekly newspaper Gambit has been purchased by the parent company of The New Orleans Advocate.
John and Dathel Georges, who own The Advocate, bought Gambit and its website bestofneworleans.com from Margo and Clancy DuBos, who have owned the publication since 1991. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed, and there were no initial indications that the change in ownership would lead to layoffs.
While the newspapers will be under the same ownership and might at times share some material, they will remain separate publications, said Dan Shea, publisher of The Advocate.
"Gambit will continue to be published as an independent voice with its own distinctive look and feel," Shea said. "There may be some shared promotions and features in the future, but our plan is to let Gambit be Gambit. They have been highly successful, and this purchase ensures that Gambit will continue to succeed."
KEEPING IT LOCAL
In a prepared statement, John Georges said the free weekly paper, with a press run of 36,000 copies, fits his model of creating a locally-owned media company that covers news, politics, culture and arts.
"We want to keep Gambit locally owned and thriving," Georges said.
Margo DuBos said she believes Gambit, which began publication in 1981, will flourish under the Georges family. "It gives Gambit more resources than ever to serve our readers and advertisers."
Gambit publisher Jeanne Exnicios Foster, editor Kevin Allman and advertising director Sandy Stein will remain in their roles. A statement from The Advocate said the change in ownership means two dozen journalists and ad sales will join the company.
Clancy DuBos, whose political column has appeared in Gambit since December 1981, will continue to write for the weekly paper in that role. He will also remain WWL-TV's political analyst. Margo DuBos will work as a business and marketing advisor for Gambit.
Shea said that in the coming weeks, Gambit will leave its Mid-City headquarters and relocate to a building on Camp Street, which is attached to The New Orleans Advocate office, which fronts St. Charles Avenue.
Gambit will now be printed on the presses at The Advocate's plant in Baton Rouge.
PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FACES CHALLENGES
Alternative weeklies came of age in the 1970s while many of the large metropolitan dailiesignored coverage of societal changes and topics important to younger readers. Alt weekly coverage was often written with a more irreverent and edgier tone.
While there are promises to keep Gambit an independent newspaper run by its existing staff, the publishing industry has faced stiff economic challenges that have resulted in pared down staffs and forced the closure of some publications across the country.
Alternative weeklies, like most publications, have struggled to bring in enough revenue as advertisers spend less money on print in favor of online advertising, which brings in far fewer dollars.
The parent company of The Baltimore Sun bought the alternative Baltimore City Paper in 2014, moved it into The Sun's headquarters, and shut it down last year citing low ad revenue.
Meanwhile, The Village Voice, known as the country's first alt weekly, published its last print edition in September 2017 and is now an online publication, as are former alt weeklies such as the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Houston Press.
Even The Times-Picayune, which was once thrown to hundreds of thousands of homes each morning, wasn't immune from the digital revolution as its owners slashed the staff by hundreds and cut publication citing slumping ad sales.
The demise of the daily home-delivered Times-Picayune gave rise to the expansion of The Advocate, which began publishing a New Orleans edition in September 2012.
The Georges family bought The Advocate a year later and greatly expanded the paper's presence in New Orleans. Since then, the Georges have spearheaded a growing print empire.
The family has purchased smaller weekly papers in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans markets, including The St. Tammany Farmer, The Zachary Advocate & Plainsman, The Watchman in East Feliciana Parish and The St. Francisville Democrat in West Feliciana Parish.
CHANGE IN OWNERSHIP MEANT TO BENEFIT PAPER
In its 37-year history, Gambit -- known for features such as the annual Best of New Orleans competition and Blake Pontchartrain history column -- has been the home to notable reporters and columnists including Ronnie Virgets, Andrei Codrescu, Chris Rose and Katy Reckdahl.
Last year, the newspaper won two of three awards given for news reporting from the Press Club of New Orleans as it competed head to head with The Advocate and Nola.com/The Times-Picayune. It also took home a number of other awards for column writing, features andreviews.
Gambit has been recognized nationally with awards for coverage including a series on the mistreatment of the homeless and an in-depth look into the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth.
Foster, Gambit's publisher, said that type of reporting will remain the newspaper's focus, adding that the change in ownership is meant to benefit the entire publication.
"Our writers will continue to tell the stories that matter most to Gambit readers, and our account executives and designers will continue to create print and digital products that are effective for our advertising partners," Foster said. "Having so many talented people working together means more growth for both Gambit and The Advocate."
Editor's note: Gambit and The New Orleans Advocate are news-gathering partners of WWL-TV.