Whatever else has happened to you over the past few months, you’ve more than likely been keeping up with everything that’s going on, by checking the news. Along with NPR, some of Louisiana’s most reliable news sources are the local New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Acadiana editions of the daily newspaper, The Advocate. Both in print and online.
The Publisher of all of the editions of The Advocate is Judi Terzotis. The last time Judi was on Out to Lunch, back in February – which now seems like a lifetime ago – she was talking about how The Advocate was bucking national newspaper trends. In the face of shrinking circulations and streamlined newsrooms in most other places, The Advocate was hiring reporters, it was growing newsrooms, it had recently acquired the New Orleans Times Picayune, it was seeing new revenue streams from merchandising and live events… Everything seemed to be humming along.
Then Covid 19 hit. Now, when you go to the Advocate’s website there’s an advertisement that says “Our Covid 19 news team needs your help,” and there’s a “Donate” button. It’s been reported that journalists at The Advocate have taken pay cuts, and that 10% of the New Orleans newsroom has been temporarily furloughed. What was it about the pandemic that turned The Advocate from an outlier media success story into a newspaper that’s having a tough time?
There’s no two ways about it – this is a tough time to be in business. There is help available to get through this rough patch – in the form of business loans, and even grants. Some are through Federal agencies, some are from State agencies, and there’s money available from city governments in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
Getting a hold of this money is not easy. Typically, businesses benefit by being a member of a business alliance to help them navigate the maze of regulation and bureaucracy. But some businesses are too small to join alliances like the Chamber of Commerce. For those small owner-operator businesses, getting access to financial expertise of any kind is challenging. You might be a great hairdresser, house painter, or plumber, but that doesn’t mean you have great – or even any – business skills. Now, imagine having the added problem of not being able to speak English. That’s the position many Latinx self-employed people find themselves in, in Louisiana. And that’s why there’s an organization called El Centro. El Centro provides business assistance for Latinx entrepreneurs.
Lindsey Navarro is Executive Director of El Centro. There’s a local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, but that’s not El Centro. If there was ever an organization that truly exists to help the little guy, it’s El Centro.