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.
- Ira Wallace Anthony (1936–2010) — wire services editor and copy editor from 1963 to 2007
- James R. "Jim" Butler, Jr. — former managing editor; later editor of The Eunice News in Eunice, Louisiana
- William F. "Bill" Carter (1928–1995) — sports editor in second half of 20th century
- William Chaze — press secretary to former Governor Buddy Roemer, later consultant in Washington, D.C., and medical consultant in San Antonio, Texas
- Nelder Dawson (1928–2006) — advertising manager and director of personnel; company employee for fifty years
- Helen Derr (1918–2011) — religion editor, 1955–1977
- Michael P. Dunne (1949–2007) — later environmental reporter for the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
- Sue Eakin (1918–2009) — historian and columnist
- Ronald R. Grant — former state (regional) editor and editorial page editor
- Chanan Gerald Hambleton (1935-2012) — Town Talk reporter, president of Alexandria Press Club, and later news director for KSYL Radio and a consultant for the Rapides Parish Police Jury
- Tom J. Hardin — executive under Joe D. Smith, Jr., and publisher under Central Newspapers ownership
- Mike Hasten — Capitol reporter in Baton Rouge
- Chet Hilburn — reporter, later with Houston Chronicle, author of The Mystique of Tiger Stadium: 25 Greatest Games: The Ascension of LSU Football (2012)
- Ethel G. Holleman (died 1979) — women's editor in 1960s and 1970s
- Leandro Sarchielli Huebner — former senior photographer and photo editor from 1987 to 2007. Initiated the first total digital darkroom for a newspaper in Louisiana. Worked at The Town Talk from 1973 until retirement in 2012.
- Cleo Joffrion — first African American reporter, 1975
- Michael Kimmitt—Sports reporter, 1972-1974, later Public Affairs Manager for Mobil Corporation's U.S. Exploration & Producing and Mobil Corporation's International Chemical operations.
- Adras LaBorde (1912–1993) — managing editor; total career spanned 1945-1977; wrote "Talk of the Town" column
- John LaPlante (1953–2007) — later political reporter for Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
- Tom Joseph Ledet (1933-2016) — Town Talk journalist, president of the Louisiana Press Association, press secretary to U. S. Representative Gillis William Long of Louisiana's 8th congressional district (disbanded) and former Lieutenant Governor Robert "Bobby" Freeman, executive director of the Red River Valley Association, Pineville native who resided in Lafayette in his later years
- James Henry "Jim" Leggett — former political reporter and editorial page editor
- Elizabeth Roberts Martin — first woman in an editor's position; named president of the Louisiana Press Women in 1974
- Bret H. McCormick — former news and sports reporter; sports editor since 2013
- Marilyn Miller — later industrial public relations representative in Minden and the author of Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light: A True Crime Story based on a crime in Webster Parish on Christmas 1916.
- Rebecca Jo Tubb Mulkey (1949–1999) — features writer from Magnolia, Arkansas
- John Travis Nixon — publisher of what later evolved into The Monroe News-Star and The Crowley Post Signal, former journalist at The Town Talk c. 1890
- Roy Winfred Pitchford (1943-2017) — former business editor of The Town Talk; former bureau chief at the Baton Rouge Advocate in his native Baton Rouge; formerly with the El Dorado News-Times in El Dorado, Arkansas, and a Southern Baptist pastor.
- Len Sanderson, Jr. — first director of The Town Talk's Baton Rouge bureau, 1974; chief of staff to Governor Roemer (1988); later a business consultant
- George W. Shannon (1914–1998) — joined The Town Talk in 1938; later the editor of the since defunct Shreveport Journal
- Richard P. Sharkey — former city editor, assistant managing editor, photo editor, production editor, multimedia editor, features editor, special projects editor, and current reporter
- Bob Tompkins — sports reporter, 1976-2015; sports editor, 1987-1994
- Cecil Williams (1922–2008) — business editor and columnist; on staff, 1955–1987
- ^ "The Town Talk". Archived from the original on 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- ^ Star sold to Gannett
- ^ [www.thetowntalk.com]
- ^ "Central Newspapers to acquire Alexandria Daily Town Talk". Business Wire. January 10, 1996.
- ^ Adras LaBorde, quoted in Fredrick M. Spletstoser, Talk of the Town: The Rise of Alexandria, Louisiana, and the Daily Town Talk, Louisiana State University Press, 2005, p. 130
- ^ tp://www.gannett.com/go/newswatch/2003/june/nw0627-1.htm
- ^ "Jenkins, Landrieu trade blows", Minden Press-Herald, October 29, 1996, p. 1.
- ^ Central La. Politics: Alexandria Town Talk Endorses Jindal For Governor
- ^ Jeff Matthews (November 17, 2016). "See the newly renovated Town Talk building". The Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
- ^ Judi Terzotis, president of The Alexandria Town Talk (March 8, 2017). "A letter to our readers". The Town Talk. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- ^ "Billy Gomila, Manship School of Mass Communication celebrates 100 years of journalism education". sites01.lsu.edu. Archived from the original on August 13, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
- ^ Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
- ^ "Chanan Gerald Hambleton". The Town Talk. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
- ^ "The Mystique of Tiger Stadium: 245 Greatest Games: The ascension of LSU Football". WestBowPress, ISBN 1449752691. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
- ^ "Tom Joseph Ledet". The Alexandria Town Talk. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
- ^ Minden Press-Herald, February 20, 1974
- ^ "Meet the staff: Bret H. McCormick, sports editor". The Town Talk. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- ^ Marilyn Miller, Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light, a True Crime Story, Many, Louisiana: Sweet Dreams Publishing Company, 2000 ISBN 1-893693-09-0
- ^ "Nixon, John Travis". Louisiana Historical Association. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- ^ "Roy W. Pitchford". The Monroe News-Star. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- ^ "Meet the staff: Richard Sharkey, reporter". The Town Talk. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
- ^ "Meet the staff: Bob Tompkins, sportswriter". The Town Talk. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
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.)