Baton Rouge Newsweekly to Debut in January

Gambit Weekly Owners Prepare For Launch By Acquiring Assets of Local Paper.

Mark Twain would be proud.

Clancy and Margo DuBos, the husband and wife team behind New Orleans’ Gambit Weekly, are paddling 80 miles upstream on the Mississippi River to start a new paper in Baton Rouge.

The new paper will be fashioned from the assets the DuBoses acquired when they signed an agreement last month to purchase gris-gris, a monthly based in Louisiana’s state capital. The couple is buying the 22,000-circulation paper from a family concern headed by Jeannie Smith, who has been running the paper since 1996. The deal is expected to be finalized in mid-October.

For the time being, gris-gris will suspend publication, according to Clancy DuBos. He says a new “newspaper infrastructure … office space, computers, staff” will be assembled in time for the paper’s January 1999 launch as the alternative gris-gris weekly. Smith will remain on board as its editor.

gris-gris has a good name in Baton Rouge,” says DuBos. “But it’s struggled financially. It’s been under-staffed and under-capitalized. Jeannie came to us about six months ago. She’s an editor [by trade] and she approached us saying she needed help on the business side. We worked out a deal where we would acquire the paper rather than just invest in it.”

According to DuBos, gris-gris has a history in Baton Rouge dating back to Prohibition. (Its name is an old Cajun expression used to describe a voodoo spell; e.g., “Somebody put a gris-gris on me,” says DuBos.) It first appeared as a Louisiana State University student newspaper in the 1930s — only to fold a few short years later because of monetary problems. gris-gris’ second coming occurred in the ’70s and lasted six years.

The DuBos’ bid to resurrect gris-gris and establish it as a staple of the Baton Rouge community will be the paper’s fifth renaissance.

The Baton Rouge market has a population of 600,000 and is the fastest growing metropolitan area in the state, says DuBos. There’s a shopping mall construction boom and new locally-owned restaurants are opening all the time. Moreover, DuBos says that many Gambit Weekly clients also have businesses or branches in Baton Rouge.

gris-gris will share administrative staff and part of the classified ad department with its sister publication in the Big Easy. In its infancy, it will also be designed at Gambit Weekly headquarters.

DuBos is quick to add that gris-gris won’t be an appendage of Gambit. With a start-up staff of 10 and “a minimum” weekly circulation of 25,000, it “will have its own direction, its own editors and its own focus.”

“I’m acutely aware of how [people from New Orleans] are perceived outside the city,” he says. “And we’re going to make sure that this is not a case of people coming in from New Orleans showing them how it’s done. We’re going up there foremost to learn … This paper will be about Baton Rouge, for the people of Baton Rouge. Margo and I are strong believers that a local newspaper must reflect its local community in order to be successful.”

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