town talk

The Town Talk (Alexandria)

The Town Talk, formally 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 regional hub city.

The paper has a circulation of some 40,000 daily and 41,000 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 Edward McCormick, and their heirs until 1996, when it was sold to Central Newspapers of Indianapolis, then the fifteenth largest newspaper company in the United States. The parent company was called “McCormick & Company, Inc.” Central Newspapers, until it was purchased in 2000 by Gannett of Arlington, 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 newsaper. 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, the 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 thirty-two 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.

Paul Carty becomes the Town Talk executive editor on July 7, 2008. He has been the managing editor of Gannett’s Star-Gazette at Elmire, New York, since 2001. Carty started his journalism career at the ‘’Sun/Jefferson-Pilot’’ in Clearwater, Florida, as a copy editor. He has since worked at various newspapers in Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Richard Powell Sharkey (born ca. 1954) remains managing editor under Carty.

Under the McCormick heirs, The Town Talk considered itself a politically Independent newspaper and did not endorse candidates. In the 2000s, however, the paper has begun endorsing candidates. In 2004, it endorsed Alexandria Republican Jock Scott in his unsuccessful race for the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2007, it supported Republican Bobby Jindal in his successful race for governor.

Notable staffers

Wallace Anthony -- editor of layout and wire services from 1963-2007

James R. Butler -- former managing editor

William F. "Bill" Carter (1928-1995)-- sports editor in second half of 20th Century

Jeff Cowart – press secretary to former Governor Buddy Roemer, later consultant

Nelder Dawson (1928-2006) -- advertising manager and director of personnel; on staff for fifty years

Helen Elizabeth Derr -- religion editor from 1957-1977

Michael P. Dunne (1949-2007) -- later environmental reporter for the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate

Ronald R. Grant – former regional editor and columnist

Tom J. Hardin – executive under Joe D. Smith, Jr., and publisher under Central Newspapers

Ethel G. Holleman (died 1979) – women’s editor in 1960s and 1970s

Leandro S. Huebner -- chief photographer; on staff since 1973

Cleo Joffrion -- first African American reporter, 1975

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

James Henry "Jim" Leggett -- former executive editor

Elizabeth Roberts Martin – first woman in an editor’s position , 1970s

Marilyn Miller, a former Town Talk staff member, is an industry 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

Len Sanderson, Jr. – first director of ‘’Town Talk’’’s Baton Rouge bureau, 1974; later a business consultant

George W. Shannon (1914-1998) – later the editor of the since defunct ‘’Shreveport Journal’’

Cecil Williams (1922-2008) -- business editor and columnist; on staff, 1955-1987

Further reading

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.)


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