A couple of months ago, when veteran political reporter Sue Lincoln told me of her plans to retire from WRKF, the Baton Rouge-area NPR affiliate, I didn’t hesitate in asking her to join The Bayou Brief, not as a freelance contributor but as our full-time capitol correspondent. For several years, Sue had informed tens of thousands of Louisianians, every single day, about the work of their state’s government. Her radio segment, “Capitol Access,” was carried by stations on all corners of Louisiana.
Like many, I followed her work, and I knew that there were very few people who possessed the same institutional knowledge about the state Capitol, network of sources, journalistic ethics, and decency that Sue Lincoln brought to her craft. But if she had ever truly considered an “actual” retirement (though knowing her now as I do, I doubt that even crossed her mind), I wasn’t going to let that happen. Sue spent most of her career on the radio, and because of the inherent constraints of that format, she didn’t get to write stories as much as she wrote scripts about stories.
We quickly reached an agreement:
First, she would have complete editorial control over the stories she writes; that is, she picks her stories, not me or anyone else. Her section, which we’re launching officially today, is her baby, as it should be.
Second, the columns would be published once-a-day during the session and typically between 1,200 and 2,000 words each.
Third, we have to do a podcast; Sue has a spectacular speaking voice and is a talented interviewer. We will, very soon, launch that podcast series, which will be called “Briefly Speaking with Sue Lincoln.”
And fourth, we absolutely have to raise money to help provide her with the resources she needs to do her job. (I’ll unpack this at the end).
I hope that most of you have already followed Sue’s really insightful and detailed reporting on the first special session, which ended in ignoble failure last night. Sue’s fifteen stories are each informative, clever, creative, and true, and to the best of my knowledge, no one else in Louisiana is doing quite what Sue is, which is why her work has received several thousand readers, several hundred shares on Facebook, and has caught the attention and the respect of numerous lawmakers and fellow reporters, all within only two weeks. I am, of course, biased, but as someone who reads everything published by major newspapers, Sue’s coverage was, to me at least, the most compelling journalism in the state. She may no longer be on the radio, but her voice remains unmistakable.
The Bayou Brief needs Sue, but more importantly, the people of Louisiana need her as well.
There are very few people in Louisiana who actually work as journalists in the state Capitol every single day. Most of the state’s newspapers no longer employ their own correspondents, and the vast majority of local television news stations rely on one or two reporters who sell their work to those stations instead of assigning one of their own reporters to Baton Rouge.
This is not to diminish the work of our colleagues; they all do very great work, particularly Tyler Bridges and Liz Crisp of The Advocate, Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press, Greg Hilburn of Gannett, Jeremy Alford of LAPolitics, and the students at LSU’s Manship School (who have been very impressive).
But because there are so few reporters, it’s much more challenging to cover everything, and as a result, we all suffer. Ignorance in the case of the Louisiana legislature may be pervasive, but it’s not bliss; it can be dangerous.
The people of Louisiana helped build The Bayou Brief, and during the past ten months, we’ve become one of the most well-read and well-respected online publications in the state. Now, we ask for your help building an addition.
The Bayou Brief needs to raise $15,000 to provide the resources necessary to ensure Sue Lincoln can bring you daily reports, podcasts, and weekly wrap-ups throughout the next three months.
As a non-profit publication, we cannot offer donors banner ads or pop-up videos or even “special advertising sections.” But we can offer the same type of placement and publicity that others, like PBS and NPR, provide to their underwriters and sponsors.
If you or your business or organization is interested in underwriting the service that Sue Lincoln provides to the people of Louisiana, please contact me personally and soon at firstname.lastname@example.org.