- Mission Statement
- Measuring the Difference
- The Return on Investment
- The Necessity
- The Pressing State of the State’s Press
- About Lamar
- Our Team
- Sue Lincoln, Investigative Editor
- Casey Parks, Contributing Editor
- Zack Kopplin, Contributing Editor
- Nath Pizzolatto, Sports Editor
- Peter Athas, Contributing Writer
- Cayman Clevenger, Chairman of the Board
- Jesse Gilmore, Vice Chairman of the Board
Our mission is to promote the civic livelihood, the cultural, historic, and artistic contributions, and the social welfare of the land and people of one of the most complicated, frustrating, and fascinating places on the planet, the state of Louisiana.
Although the Bayou Brief is a young publication, we were built by a small group of professional and experienced journalists, writers, and advocates who each possess a deep institutional knowledge about Louisiana. We are a team of subject-matter experts all motivated by a belief in the critical need for a free and fearless press, one that is unrestrained and not beholden to the agendas of big business or those in positions of corporate or political power.
We are a 501(c)(4) nonprofit entirely funded by individual members and through the financial contributions of nonprofit and foundational organizations who share our values and understand the importance of a more informed public. We do not publish advertisements or sponsored content. Our reporting is not obscured behind paywalls and is offered at no cost to readers.
Measuring the Difference
These findings are based on a multi-factoral, proprietary analysis of the web traffic, reach, and visibility of more than a dozen of Louisiana’s most well-known news publications, applying data collected on 95 different keywords (i.e. DeSoto Parish, Jeff Landry, Ralph Abraham) on an aggregate level (statewide) and on all seven of the state’s major media markets. To be clear, “readers” only applies to a publication’s online audience.
The Return on Investment
As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, we are legally required to disclose our finances to the public in a 990 report to the IRS within two years of our initial incorporation. As soon as our report is filed, we will make it easy for all of our readers: We will publish the full report right here.
We also understand and believe in our ethical duty to demonstrate that we are fully complying with the laws that govern tax-exempt organizations, and we know our contributors and readers will recognize the value of their support. Suffice it to say, we are operating on a shoe-string.
The Bayou Brief is a nonprofit, but we are not a charity. We are a social welfare organization.
Early on, we made the decision to incorporate as a (c)(4) and not a (c)(3) for a number of reasons, recognizing that, in doing so, donations cannot be declared as tax-deductible and that it may prevent us from applying for certain grant opportunities.
However, we understood the trade-off: As a social welfare organization, we would be less constrained about political advocacy, and given the state’s toxic partisan environment, we also recognized that our editorial independence was sacrosanct. There was another practical concern: As a publication that seeks to speak truth to power, we knew the importance of protecting the privacy of our supporters.
We could have easily incorporated as a for-profit entity, and just like every other news organization in Louisiana, with the exception of The Lens in New Orleans, a 501(c)(3), we would have also been under no obligation to disclose the names and addresses of those who pay for a subscription. But we are not motivated by a desire to maximize profits; we merely want to share our investigative reporting, at no charge, to the public.
Our report will show the following: All told, we have earned less than $80,000 a year. Our publisher earns less than any other similarly-situated nonprofit executive, and, in fact, initially launched the Bayou Brief with his own savings. You will also learn that our all of reporters do not earn the money they deserve; they are contributors because they share our values, and they love their work. We have spent money on technology, software, travel costs, subscription services, legal fees, public records, sponsorships, and promotions on Facebook. We have very little overhead; we operate from a home office. We typically maintain between $10,000 to $20,000 in cash reserves. Our board members are not compensated.
Assuming our donors maintain their commitments, the Bayou Brief could continue to operate just as we do today. But we believe- and the data demonstrates- that we could create a much more innovative and robust publication, a publication that Louisiana and the Deep South needs now more than ever by aggressively pursuing large-scale, multi-year funding.
This year, that is precisely what we intend to do. When the nonprofit news organization focused on New Orleans first launched, they immediately and deservedly attracted more than $700,000 in funding. That is a lofty goal, of course, but we will do everything we can to ensure we have the long-term funding required to ramp up our investments in journalists all across the state.
We believe we have made the case for the Bayou Brief, and with your continued support, there is only one direction: Up.
Although there are six times as many people living in neighboring Texas and nearly ten times as many in California, the decisions made in Louisiana can profoundly affect the entire nation.
We are home to the country’s one and only deepwater oil port, which also means we are America’s single largest point of entry for crude oil importation. Louisiana accounts for nearly one-fifth of the country’s oil refining capacity, with the ability to produce 3.3 million barrels of oil every single day. Half of America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve is held in Louisiana.
There are still trillions of dollars worth of oil buried directly off of our battered coast and untold fortunes of natural gas underneath the pine forests that dominate the northern and central regions of the state.
We also consume more energy in Louisiana than any other state except Texas, which, again, has six times as many people and is five times larger in land mass.
We are home to the highest concentration of oil, gas, and petrochemical plants in the country.
To some, this may sound like a litany of industry-friendly talking points, but others hear the ticking time bombs and recognize the unspoken truths about the state’s role in providing power to the entire nation.
Remember, Louisiana was also the site of the most expensive environmental disaster in American history, the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and remember, the oil and gas industry, by its own admissions, is responsible for billions of dollars worth of damages to our coastal marshland and ecosystem.
For more than a century, the people of Louisiana were promised that the wealth underneath our land and our coast would, one day, be our panacea, and for more than a century, state leaders tethered our finances to the desires of a small cabal of mega-billion dollar multinational corporations and the price of the products they sell in a volatile global marketplace.
Without question, fortunes have been made in Louisiana because of the state’s critical role in supplying the nation’s energy. The industry directly employs approximately 1.5% of the state’s labor force (a generous estimate), the jobs it provides are high-paying.
Yet despite the fact that we are home to an essential portion of the wealthiest industry in the history of human civilization, there are more children living in poverty in Louisiana than any other state in the country.
Overall, we are the second poorest state in America.
We rank dead last in higher educational attainment and in the gender wage gap.
That said, there are glimmers of hope.
Four years ago, we were ranked at the bottom on health insurance coverage, saddled with a $1.6 billion deficit and a downgraded credit rating, and were accurately described as the “prison capital of the world.”
Today, none of those things are true any more: Nearly 500,000 more people are now insured through Medicaid expansion, which means Louisiana is no longer even close to the bottom of the list; we’re now ranked #23 out of 51 (the data includes Washington D.C.). A deficit has been turned into a surplus, albeit in a way that protected businesses and disproportionately burdened the working class instead- which was the only acceptable solution for a Republican-controlled legislature. Our credit rating is in better shape. And as a consequence of criminal justice reforms, we are no longer the prison capital of the world.
Knowledge is power, and an informed public is the most effective guard against corruption, graft, and complacency.
There are several issues that demand scrutiny from an attentive press. The mythology of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, however, is perhaps most illustrative of deficiencies of the state’s legacy media, because, as it turns out, the wealthiest industry in the history of human civilization is also more capable of buying ink by the barrel than any newspaper. And in the second poorest state in the country, it’s even less expensive to simply buy politicians.
Of course, it’s easy to do both, which is exactly what has occurred in Louisiana and precisely what the Bayou Brief was built to expose and combat.
The Pressing State of the State’s Press
A century ago, Louisiana had one of the nation’s most robust press corps: Dozens of newspapers stretching across the entire state and hundreds of reporters, journalists, and columnists who shared a passion for the power of the written word. A small newspaper from Central Louisiana, The Town Talk, was once a nationally-recognized innovator, one of the first to invest in the expensive new technology that eventually changed the course of history and made the typewriter obsolete. The publisher of that small paper was not motivated by a desire to maximize profits; computers were an investment in his reporters.
In the final two decades of the past century, the press became known as the news business, and like in communities across the nation, newspapers in Louisiana that had once been owned by those who lived in the communities they served were swallowed up by corporate conglomerates. At the same time, though, the proliferation of the internet complicated their business models. They failed to adapt. They’re still failing.
Today, a single corporation, Gannett, controls and owns the newspapers that serve more than 60% of the state’s population and four of its seven major media markets. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans is now controlled by the Newhouse family of New York, owners of Advance Publications, the 44th largest privately-held company in the United States. Even The Houma Courier, which was founded in 1878 as Le Courrier de Houma and has a circulation of fewer than 20,000 readers, is owned by a major national corporation.
Today, most of these papers scaled back their print publishing to only three days a week; most of them built their digital versions behind a paywall. In a state that is 32.2% African American, there are only a small handful of black reporters. One of the state’s most well-known newspapers, the only major paper in its entire market and a paper headquartered in a majority-minority city, does not have a single African American on its staff.
Louisiana needs and deserves a free and accessible press that reflects and reports on the true stories of its people, its culture, and its politics.
A Brief Biography:
Frederick “Lamar” White, Jr. is the founder and publisher of the Bayou Brief, a prolific writer, a disability and civil rights activist, and a well-known social media personality and political analyst. He is a native of Alexandria, Louisiana and currently lives in New Orleans.
The Full Story (so far) | A Personal Essay
by Lamar White, Jr.
I was born and raised in Alexandria, a small and diverse city in the heart of Louisiana, on May 5, 1982, the son of Carol Rhodes White and the late Lamar White, Sr., both of whom were locally well-respected real estate brokers and developers.
“My hometown is often called ‘the crossroads’ of the state, but I think it is better described as the place where Louisiana connects,” I wrote in 2009. “It is on the border of Cajun Country and the pine forests and red dirt hill country of Duck Dynasty. I grew up in a place that suffers and celebrates its own multiple personalities, but it is also a place that gives you a vantage and a singular perspective on Louisiana.”
I’m a ninth-generation Louisianian through both my paternal and maternal families. They arrived from France, England, Jamaica, and Haiti and are buried in 17th century cemeteries across the state. I am also the fifth great-grand nephew of John Neely Bryan, the founder of Dallas, Texas, and the great nephew of Myrtle “Sue” Lyles Eakin, the legendary Louisiana historian who is best known for her lifelong scholarship on Solomon Northup’s book 12 Years A Slave.
At the age of twelve months, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spent much of my childhood in hospitals and physical therapy. As a child, I immersed myself in books and became a student of Louisiana politics and history, inspired by my dad and my grandmother Joanne.
When I was ten, I launched my first business, Politics and Business for Kids, selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door on my oversized tricycle with the hope of raising enough money to advocate policies that would benefit disabled children and their families.
Unbeknownst to my parents, in 1993 and at the age of eleven, I became a regular contributor on bulletin boards about religion on the “world’s first online medium,” a service called Prodigy. I created my first website in 1995 on the now-defunct Geocities when I was thirteen, and learned rudimentary HTML 2.0, not because I ever intended to “code” but because I believed the internet would represent the future of global communication.
When I was a kid, my paternal grandfather, dad, and mom worked together and transformed a boutique real estate company into the largest residential brokerage firm in Central Louisiana, employing more than fifty agents, a prolific development company, and one of the state’s largest privately-held and locally-owned investors in apartment complexes across north and central Louisiana. My parents hosted the very first real estate television show in the state and were one of the first fifty brokerage firms in the country to launch a website, which received national acclaim.
I grew up in strange, modern home built with horizontal cypress planks that were constantly rotting. The home was also littered with 72 windows, of various geometric shapes, and it featured a living room with a 24 foot ceiling and a kitchen the size of a typical walk-in closet. The house was around 3,200 square feet, but from the street, it looked twice as big.
My mom, understandably, hated the place. On the night before we finally moved out, my younger brother, younger sister, and I shot up the empty living room with our SuperSoaker water guns. I couldn’t believe we didn’t get in trouble, but now I understand: The house deserved it.
We may have all grown to resent the house, but we loved its location: At the dead-end of a street in a sprawling, middle-class neighborhood, Charles Park, developed by my great-grand uncle Charles and my grandfather Paul. Our house was on Whitechapel Boulevard, named after the Methodist Church that my third great-grandfather founded in Bunkie, Louisiana in 1870.
My third great-grandfather was Frederick White, as was my second great-grandfather, and my great-grandfather. My dad was also Frederick White, and, obviously, that’s my name as well. If the name hadn’t skipped a generation, I wouldn’t be Lamar, Jr.; I’d be Frederick the Sixth.
They named every street in Charles Park with a word beginning with the letter W. When my dad planned the final extension of the neighborhood, we got to pick out the final street names. My mom got out a dictionary, put it on our breakfast table, and began thumbing through it. I rooted for Woodstock Drive, but she lobbied for Walden instead and somehow managed to convince me that it was also my idea too.
In October 2011, in an extended interview with The Town Talk about Charles Park, I described it as an idyllic place. “In some respects, growing up in Charles Park was like a more modern version of the movie ‘The Sandlot,’ except we didn’t have a real baseball diamond; we had vacant land,” I told the paper. “Kids roamed and ruled the streets, and our parents gave us free reign of the place. There were dozens and dozens of kids, and we were all friends.”
I am a product of the public school system, and in high school, I competed nationally in speech and debate events, wrote a regular column for The Town Talk as a member of its Youth Council, and served as an assistant editor of my high school newspaper.
I left Louisiana for college, attending Rice University in Houston. I’d initially intended on majoring in political science, aspiring, like many of my peers from the world of high school debate, to plunge directly into law school afterward.
However, on Feb. 3rd, 2001, my dad died in a tragic, single-car accident. He was only 41, but he had established himself as a beloved and visionary civic leader. His death had a profound effect on Alexandria; his funeral was one of the largest-ever. It also fundamentally altered my educational and professional ambitions.
By pure luck and the consequence of a misprinted class registration schedule, I was able to enroll into a personal essay class as a freshman. The class was taught by Dr. Marsha Recknagel, a native of Shreveport, and Marsha quickly became my most-trusted mentor and advisor. She took me under her wing. I switched out of political science and enrolled into Rice’s School of Humanities. During the summers, I enrolled in intensive writing workshops in Saratoga Springs, New York, where I studied under some of the country’s best writing professors, including Lee K. Abbott and Rick Moody.
Back in Houston, even though I had never published a single story, I got to know the literary community, attending every reading I could and interacting with some of the world’s most accomplished writers. I enrolled in every writing workshop Rice offered, including four classes with Justin Cronin, the author of The Passage, and when Cronin launched Rice’s first literary journal, he asked me to be its first-ever fiction editor.
I decided to double-major in Religious Studies, with a concentration on mysticism and the psychology of religion.
By the time I graduated, Rice informed me I’d taken more writing classes than any student in school history. I also had no job lined up, and contrary to what many in Alexandria believed, I had no trust fund and no real income. I lived off of Social Security Disability Income. I took a couple of tutoring gigs; I considered applying for teaching jobs.
And then Hurricane Katrina happened. I had to be back home.
I moved into a small apartment, answered the phone at my mom’s real estate company, and decided to take the advice I had heard dozens of times from dozens of authors: Write what you know.
In March of 2006, I launched CenLamar, a blog about life in Alexandria. It took off almost immediately. I began by passionately making the case for reinvesting in Bringhurst Golf Course, one of the nation’s oldest, publicly-owned par three courses. My proposal made headlines in the local paper and impressed the City Council, though my plan was primarily a plea for the city to put money into the inner-city course. My brother Mark and his best friend helped, but I took the lead. I’d never played a round of golf, but I knew the course was special to my dad.
My commentary on a lawsuit against CLECO caught the attention of a 35-year-old lawyer named Jacques Roy. Jacques was running for mayor, and I joined his campaign team. After he won, with 76% of the vote, he brought me with him to City Hall.
For the next five and a half years, I worked for my hometown as the mayor’s special assistant. I learned about the government from the inside; I wrote grants, RFPs and RFQs, and press releases. I helped plan infrastructure reinvestment projects and organized regional summits on smart growth, crime prevention through environmental design, and cyber security. I befriended like-minded, young progressives across the state, and O helped to launch a chapter of the New Leaders Council in Louisiana.
I also continued to write my blog, sharing what I had learned about the good, the bad, and the ugly of local politics and state government. I battled white racists and promoted the need for social and economic equity. I knew I was making a difference, but it was sometimes dispiriting. I needed a change.
Jacques encouraged me to enroll in law school. I could always return to my job if I wanted to, he said, and by then, I looked to him for advice like I would have from my dad. I still do.
By the time I left Alexandria for the second time, I knew I had poured as much as I could have into improving my hometown. There was a lot to be proud of.
I enrolled in law school at SMU, my dad’s alma mater. Bringhurst Golf Course had been completely renovated.
I wasn’t a model law school student, because I wasn’t there to compete against my classmates or to land a corporate job or to receive the validation of my professors. I was there to arm myself with the education I needed to help other people. In law school, they attempt to teach students to write a different way. Thankfully, I’d been warned about this, the absurdity of the pedagogy. Law professors swoon over Court opinions that are clever and distinctive; they admire judges and justices who break all of the rules they’re told to teach.
So, I ignored practically everything I was taught about how to write, and because of that, my writing improved.
In 2012, I battled with Andrew Breitbart on Twitter, and when he realized I was being earnest with him, he apologized. Forty minutes later, he dropped dead. It was the first time the national news paid much attention to me, though my friends in Louisiana had been following my work for the past seven years. They decided to give me an award.
Since then, my reporting has made news for other reasons. I’ve re-learned the art of public speaking; I’ve graduated from law school; I’ve moved to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and I’ve grown up. But the speech I gave at Rising Tide VII is still the best distillation of my philosophy about writing and advocacy.
Sue Lincoln, Investigative Editor
Sue Lincoln is a veteran and widely-respected reporter who has been covering Louisiana politics for nearly three decades. Originally from Long Beach, California, Sue’s career in journalism began on the radio in Los Angeles. After moving to Louisiana, Sue enrolled at LSU and earned a degree in English. For ten years, from 2000-2010, she was the Assistant News Director at Louisiana Network.
Sue also worked as the education reporter for Louisiana Public Broadcasting and has contributed to various state publications as a freelance journalist. But she is perhaps best known for her work with WRFK, Baton Rouge’s NPR affiliate, where, for the past four years, she hosted the popular daily segment Capitol Access.
Casey Parks, Contributing Editor
Casey is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker who worked for the past decade as an enterprise reporter at The Oregonian, the second largest newspaper in the Pacific Northwest. Currently, she is living in New York City and attending the Master of Arts program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where her scholarship is focused on poverty, mass incarceration, and education in her home state of Louisiana.
She was born in West Monroe and attended high school in Alexandria, graduating as valedictorian of her class. Casey got her first job in the newspaper business as a high school student, working as a youth correspondent for The Alexandria Daily Town Talk. She attended college at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi and served as an assistant editor at The Jackson Free Press. Shortly after graduation, Casey was selected by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, edging out over 8,000 other applicants and earning a two-month trip to Africa, where she and Kristof collaborated on a series of stories. Her experience was featured on NBC’s Today Show, among others.
Casey has won numerous awards for her writing and reporting. In 2015, she was a finalist for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. In 2016, the Society of Professional Journalists awarded her first place in its Long Feature category, and in 2017, the Society for Features Journalism awarded Casey first place prizes in both General Feature writing and Narrative Storytelling, along with a second place prize in Diversity in Digital Media and a third place prize in Feature Writing.
She has also won several awards for her filmmaking. In 2010, her short film “The Amazin’ Jerks” won the Grand Prize at the Portland Bridge Festival. In 2016, the Crossroads Film Festival named her movie “Ballad of Little Pam,” which follows an isolated lesbian couple living in rural Louisiana, as the Most Transformative Film of the year.
Casey has told the stories of people and places all across the world, but she is most passionate about the exploring the back roads and the hidden truths of Louisiana.
Zack Kopplin, Contributing Editor
Zack is an internationally-renowned writer and activist and a graduate of Rice University. Zack is the recipient of numerous awards in social advocacy, including the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of Darwin Award, and the very-first Troublemaker of the Year Award. As a high school student in Baton Rouge, Zack garnered the support of 78 Nobel laureate scientists in his campaign to repeal a creationism in the classroom law, the largest-ever number of Nobel Prize winners to endorse a change in state law. He is a contributing writer for Slate and The Daily Beast and has been interviewed on Real Time With Bill Maher and Moyers and Company, among others.
Nath Pizzolatto, Sports Editor
Nath is The Bayou Brief‘s renaissance man: A former professional poker player, a musician, a stand-up comedian, an actor, a football analyst, a screenwriter, and a freelance reporter with an expansive portfolio.
Nath was born and raised in Lake Charles, and although he will always consider himself a native son of Louisiana, he has called Houston home for nearly two decades. He is a graduate of Rice University and the co-founder of the website Zone Reads. Nath’s work has previously appeared in The Houston Chronicle, The Houston Press, and Houstonia.
Peter Athas, Contributing Writer
Peter has been blogging as Adrastos since 2005. He is currently one of the principal bloggers at First Draft. He is a founding member of the Spank sub-krewe of Krewe du Vieux and one of the founders of the Rising Tide Conference.
He apparently has a penchant for founding things. He lives in Uptown New Orleans with his wife and two cats.
Cayman Clevenger, Chairman of the Board
Cayman is a native of both Many and Shreveport, Louisiana and a current resident of New Orleans. He is a graduate of Tulane University and Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, with honors. Cayman has been working in Louisiana politics since he was seventeen. He is currently a practicing healthcare attorney, a real estate agent, and an art broker for fine Louisiana art and artists.
He is married to his wife Sarah, and together, they are the proud parents of a baby daughter, Evangeline.
Jesse Gilmore, Vice Chairman of the Board
Jesse Gilmore raises funds for good people and better causes, and works tirelessly to build a better Louisiana. Jesse adopted Shreveport as his home nine years ago and never looked back. A former senior staffer with the Louisiana Democratic Party and a veteran of a half-dozen political campaigns, Jesse currently serves as the Director of Development for the LSU Health Sciences Foundation. In addition, Jesse also owns and operates Pelican Blue Strategies, LLC, a political and public policy consulting firm. In his spare time, Jesse serves as the board chair of New Leaders Council Louisiana, a leadership development non-profit and is the board treasurer of the Louisiana Budget Project. You can hear him host Health Matters on KDAQ 89.9, and find him at Alex Box in the spring and Tiger Stadium in the fall.