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Third Street entrance to The Town Talk in Alexandria, Louisiana
|Editor||Paul V. Carty (effective July 7, 2003)|
|Founded||March 17, 1883|
|Headquarters||1201 Third Street, Alexandria, Rapides Parish, Louisiana, USA|
|Circulation||19,500 daily; 27,500 Sundays|
The Town Talk, started as The Daily Town Talk in 1883 and later named the Alexandria Daily Town Talk, is the major newspaper of Central Louisiana. It is published by Gannett in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish and the economic center of Central Louisiana.
The daily newspaper has a circulation of some 19,500 daily and 27,500 on Sundays. It covers the news primarily in seven parishes with a population of approximately 400,000. The coverage area reaches from the Mississippi River on the east to the Texas border on the west.
The Town Talk was born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1883. It was owned by the original Irish-American founders, including Edgar Hammond McCormick and Henarie Morrison Huie, and their heirs until 1996, when it was sold to Central Newspapers of Indianapolis, then the 15th-largest newspaper company in the United States. The parent company was called “McCormick & Company Inc.” Central Newspapers was purchased in 2000 by Gannett of McLean, Virginia, was owned until his death by Eugene S. Pulliam, the maternal uncle of former Vice President of the United States J. Danforth Quayle.
In 1962, Joe D. Smith, Jr. (1922–2008) became publisher of The Town Talk. He was the husband of Jane Wilson Smith (1922–1992), a McCormick heir whose family owned the newspaper. Over the years, Smith was also the general manager, president, and chairman of the board. Under his tutelage, The Town Talk became the first daily newspaper in Louisiana to become computerized. He took the view that newspapers were expected to foster growth and improvement in the community as well as report the news. Some four years after the death of Jane Smith, Smith sold to Central Newspapers for $62 million.
On the acquisition of The Town Talk, Louis A. Weil III, Central Newspapers' chief executive officer, said that under Smith’s leadership, “the newspaper has become one of the premier medium-sized dailies in the South. It fits with our goal of acquiring newspaper properties with a strong position in their market area and a proven history of journalistic integrity." Weil's analysis was in sharp contrast to that of Adras LaBorde, who in 1945 launched a 32-year career with the newspaper. At the time, LaBorde described The Town Talk as "an overgrown country weekly published on a six-day basis." The publication had indeed changed little in the years between 1925 and 1945.
On July 7, 2003, Paul V. Carty became executive editor of The Town Talk. Prior to his appointment, he was the managing editor of Gannett’s Star-Gazette in Elmira, New York, since 2001. Carty started his journalism career in 1980 at the Clearwater Sun in Clearwater, Florida, owned by Jefferson-Pilot Communication. He has since worked for newspapers owned by Landmark Communications Inc. in Norfolk, Virginia, and Elizabethtown, Kentucky; and for Knight Ridder Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania, and Bradenton, Florida. He is a former instructor in the Pennsylvania State University's College of Communications.
Other key members of the news and editorial staff, as of 2009, include: Richard Powell Sharkey, assistant managing editor for news and features; John Marcase, assistant managing editor for news and sports; Cynthia Jardon, editorial page editor and social media editor; Mandy M. Goodnight, news editor; and Randall Benson, sports editor.
Under the McCormick heirs, The Town Talk considered itself a politically Independent newspaper and did not endorse candidates. In 1996, however, it backed the Democrat Mary Landrieu in her narrow but successful race for the United States Senate against the Republican Woody Jenkins. The Town Talk urged Landrieu to move to the right politically because Jenkins' positions were "far too rigid and unyielding to warrant our recommendation." In 2004, it endorsed Alexandria Republican Jock Scott in his unsuccessful race for the U.S. House of Representatives for Louisiana's 5th congressional district. In 2007, it supported Republican Bobby Jindal in his successful race for governor.
The building in which The Town Talk has been housed since 1982 is owned and largely occupied by the companies of Ken and Charlotte Wasmer, who bought the structure in September 2015 and spent more than a year in remodeling. An upstairs of some six thousand square feet will be leased to another tenant. News director Jim Smilie noted that the newspaper throughout its history had always been located in the downtown Alexandria area and would remain at that preferred location.
Beginning April 5, 2017, The Town Talk will reduce its printed editions from seven to three days per week. Hard copies will be delivered henceforth only on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The change is being undertaken because far more read the newspaper on-line than depend on actual deliveries. Judi Terzotis, the president of The Town Talk, said that the change is driven by both customers and advertisers. The Town Talk has eight times more digital reader than print readers. In 2016, the publication had 3.4 million visitors and 22 million page views.
Talk of the Town: The Rise of Alexandria, Louisiana, and the Daily Town Talk. By Frederick M. Spletstoser. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c. 2005. Pp. xvi, 325. $27.95, ISBN 0-8071-2934-8.)