New Orleans journalism venture won’t compete with T-P, Wilson says

By Andrew Lapin

The new nonprofit newsroom that NPR and WWNO announced today will not compete directly with the Times-Picayne, NPR’s Kinsey Wilson told Current in an interview.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on plans for a hybrid radio-digital news operation covering New Orleans, played up the potential for competition between the news outlets, but Wilson sees it differently. “I wouldn’t characterize it as a competitor,” said NPR’s chief content officer and digital strategist. “Frankly I don’t think that’s how anybody locally [sees it], and certainly not how we’re looking at it.”

WWNO and various New Orleans community leaders attempted to rally behind the T-P when cutbacks were announced in June, Wilson said. He cited efforts to convince Advance Publications, the newspaper’s owner, to reconsider its decision to suspend daily publication or to sell the paper. Discussions of an alternative news service began after it became clear that Advance was proceeding in its plan to scale back T-P‘s publishing to three print editions per week.

“They don’t want to go head-to-head with the Times-Picayune on every different type of coverage,” Wilson said, referring to those who developed plans for NewOrleansReporter.org. “They want to focus on those areas that may not get the full attention of the newspaper,” Wilson said.

The new newsroom with be staffed by 10 to 20 journalists, and will produce multiplatform reporting for radio and online audiences.

NPR will provide training and technical assistance for both the broadcast and digital sides of the operation, according to Wilson, who noted that WWNO currently has such a small news footprint that the NewOrleansReporter.org will have to be built from the ground up in time for its launch by the end of the year.

NPR will provide funding from a Knight Foundation grant awarded in December 2011 for digital expansion of member stations, and it will work to help secure other grants for the project. The exact amount NPR will be contributing is currently unknown. “It’s literally coming together as we speak,” Wilson said.

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