The Advocate’s new editor Rene Sanchez talks the first year on the job

Rene Sanchez predicts he’ll spend his 1-year anniversary as editor and vice president of news for The Advocate, The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com like he does most workdays: In the office, working with writers and reporters in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette to publish stories that make a difference in their communities.

“It’s a joy to do this work,” Sanchez says. “I think it’s really important, and we have a lot of work to do. No need to celebrate; it’s a reason to use as a marker of what we’ve accomplished in the past year and to see what next we can accomplish.”

Sanchez, a New Orleans native and award-winning journalist, was hired last April to replace retiring editor Peter Kovacs after more than 14 years with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which won Pulitzer Prizes under his leadership for its reporting on the murder of George Floyd and the deaths of children at day care homes.

225 sat down with Sanchez to discuss his career and the future of the three publications he helms.

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How did you get started in journalism?

The very first job I had was as a night sports clerk at The Times-Picayune. It’s kind of funny that all of these years later I have the editor’s job here now. I worked there all through college while I was at Loyola University. Then, I got an internship at The Washington Post and was able to stick on there for 17 years.

How did you land a role at such a large publication immediately out of college?

My very first job at The Washington Post was night crime reporting, where I was working from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. I was very fortunate, but still worked really hard to learn the craft and to get better at reporting, writing, and being fair and thorough.

Today you’re the editor and vice president for three major publications. How do you balance your time with each?

There’s no exact rule to it; every week is different. We want to be the most trusted, in-depth news source on all the subjects people care about. We have to balance that every week in all three areas, so we are putting our heads together to provide real, in-depth, fair-minded journalism.

What are some of your favorite new ideas you’ve brought to these publications?

The top mission of any newsroom has to be operating in the public interest. When you’re asking the community to trust you, you really have to show the good with the bad. It’s not appropriate to present just a news report to a community that’s only bleak. Last year, we created a new journalism product, Louisiana Inspired, which shows the people working on solutions to community problems: good news. Readers have really appreciated that.

What work are you most proud of from the past year?

We have a terrific reporter based in Baton Rouge, Andrea Gallo. We asked her to dig into some serious problems at the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. We all worked together on that priority, and her reporting really showed the depths of this life-or-death crisis. I think that reporting is leading the state to make big changes that can help save lives. I’m very proud of that kind of public service work—that’s our higher calling.

What are your future plans and goals for the publications?

We want to take our journalism and get it to more and more people in Louisiana. We’re taking a hard look at how we can do that and expand our watch-dog reporting, shining light on issues that help a community understand what it’s dealing with.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

This article was originally published in the April 2023 issue of 225 magazine.