Minnesota editor returning to Louisiana's largest newspaper

The editor of Louisiana’s largest newspaper is retiring, and the new editor is a returning New Orleans native who comes to the job after heading the biggest newspaper in Minnesota

ByThe Associated Press
February 10, 2022, 4:54 PM
This combo of images show Rene Sanchez, left and Peter Kovacs. Sanchez, a Louisiana native and award-winning journalist, will be the next editor of The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and NOLA.com, the media outlet announced, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. Ko
This combo of images show Rene Sanchez, left and Peter Kovacs. Sanchez, a Louisiana native and award-winning journalist, will be the next editor of The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and NOLA.com, the media outlet announced, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. Kovacs, the current editor, who led the paper to an unprecedented expansion throughout southeast Louisiana and its first Pulitzer Prize, is retiring after nine years at the helm. Sanchez, 56, is currently the editor of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. (/The Advocate via AP)
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- The editor of Louisiana's largest newspaper is retiring, and the new editor is a returning New Orleans native who comes to the job after heading the biggest newspaper in Minnesota.

Rene Sanchez of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis will replace Peter Kovacs as editor of the The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and NOLA.com, the locally owned Louisiana media outlet announced Thursday.

Sanchez has been editor of the Star Tribune for eight years and led it to Pulitzer Prizes in 2013 and in 2021. The 2021 award was for its coverage of George Floyd's murder while the 2013 award was for its investigation of child deaths in poorly regulated day care homes.

Kovacs and Sanchez worked near each other decades ago when Kovacs was city editor of The Times-Picayune and Sanchez clerked in the sports department.

Kovacs was ousted as The Times-Picayune managing editor in 2012, when its New York-based owner laid off staff and reduced the number of days it printed. When Dathel and John Georges bought the Baton Rouge-based Advocate in 2013, they hired Kovacs and expanded into New Orleans.

Under Kovacs, the newspaper won its first Pulitzer in 2019 for coverage of Louisiana laws allowing criminal convictions by divided juries.

Kovacs said his nine years as editor have been the most rewarding of his professional life, but noted that he will turn 66 this month.

“I wanted to step away when our company is strong and stable, which it is now," he said, according to the newspaper.

Two weeks after The Advocate's Pulitzer announcement, the Georges bought The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com. The company also publishes The Acadiana Advocate, based in Lafayette, and has a bureau in Lake Charles, in the state's southwestern corner.

John Georges praised Kovacs as he also welcomed Sanchez.

“At a time of shrinking newsrooms, Peter was able to assemble a team that won a Pulitzer prize,” John Georges said. “It gives me added pleasure that while searching for a new editor, we were able to find a Louisiana native and Saints fan.”

Sanchez, 56, grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Holy Cross High School and Loyola University New Orleans. After college he spent 17 years at The Washington Post before joining The Star Tribune.

Both The Advocate and the Star Tribune are locally owned.

Georges and Publisher Judi Terzotis said they were attracted to Sanchez by his unwavering commitment to traditional print journalism while leading a dramatic expansion of the Star Tribune’s digital reach to 100,000 subscribers.

Sanchez will begin work this spring while Kovacs will stay on for a year as a consultant and advisor.

Sanchez and his wife, Kerri Westenberg, have a daughter who is a sophomore at Tulane University and his parents live in the New Orleans suburb of River Ridge.

“It’s very meaningful to me to come home and join this team,” he said. “The work of the Advocate and Times-Picayune journalists, the vision for growth that John and Judi have, make this one of the most inspiring stories in local journalism.”

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