Then, Now and Next: Lagniappe’s 40th Anniversary
For four decades, the Lagniappe fisheries newsletter has been a source of information for Louisiana’s commercial and recreational fishers. The publication, a joint effort of Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter, commemorates 40 years this March and boasts more than 1,400 subscribers.
Lagniappe – which updates fishermen about new regulations, important events and species information – has had just three editors guide its content. The first author and editor, then fisheries assistant area agent Jerald Horst, admitted that relationships with fisherman were tough to build in the 1970s. Strangers at the docks were “generally met with suspicions of either being a game warden or the IRS,” he said.
When the first Lagniappe newsletter arrived in 1977, it featured a short introduction from Horst.
“Dear friends,” it reads. “I’ve been promising to put out a newsletter for several months now and this is finally it.” Horst goes on to explain his goal with Lagniappe is to “extend information to people concerned with the seafood industry,” and to “include subjects of interest to all segments of the industry.”
However, reaching those in the seafood industry was no easy feat. During the early years, he explained, there weren’t many ways to reach large numbers of people. Fishermen typically spent most of their time away from their homes, and sometimes there was a literacy issue, he said.
Work hours in the fishing industry are long, Horst added, and women often headed the household while their husbands were away. That’s when he decided to add Lagniappe’s signature recipe, “The Gumbo Pot”, to capitalize on the influence of the fishermen’s wives.
“The addition of the monthly recipe was designed specifically to attract women readers,” he said. “I knew if I wanted to get something important to commercial fisherman, I had to give the information to the people in the family that were the best readers, too – the wives.
“I also wanted them to notify their husbands about legislation that could also affect them,” he said. “I began a special edition that would cover all of the bills that affected the commercial and recreational fishing industry, and then I printed what passed.”
In 2006, Horst retired from the Extension service as state-wide fisheries specialist, leaving Lagniappe in the hands of its second editor, then fisheries associate area agent Glenn Thomas.
While the look of the Lagniappe has been updated with the times, the format remains largely the same. Each newsletter continues to feature pertinent information, events, policies for commercial and recreational fishermen, and the recipe.
“There was no reason to change what was working,” Thomas said. “Sea Grant communicators did a fantastic job of upgrading the look and graphics several times during my tenure.”
However, the publication and distribution process was only partly digitized, Thomas said. Roy Kron, Sea Grant’s director of outreach and communications, brought this up to speed and LSG reached out to more subscribers through Sea Grant electronic mailing lists, he added. All but about a dozen of the current 1,400 subscribers receive the newsletter electronically.
The needs of the average Lagniappe reader had changed, evidenced by the newsletter evolving from a hard copy mail-out to almost a full digital subscription base. Additionally, recreational and charter fisheries went from ‘part of the fisheries equation’ to the biggest part of the equation, Thomas said.
There was a point where federal regulations in the Gulf began to change on almost an hourly basis, Thomas said, which made the monthly publication of rule changes difficult. During those times, Lagniappe included links to real-time information sites.
According to Thomas, the most regular feedback he would receive was about The Gumbo Pot recipe, which he sourced from some of his own favorite recipes, friends, family and LSU AgCenter cooking contests.
Julie Anderson Lively, associate professor in the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources and state-wide fisheries specialist, took over as Lagniappe editor in 2010 and said The Gumbo Pot recipe still receives the most response from readers.
“We rarely get feedback these days. But for years, we’ve had a recipe, and if there isn’t a recipe we definitely get a message from some readers asking if they were missing a page of the newsletter,” Lively said.
In 2011, Lively took Lagniappe one step further into the digital era by starting its blog, (louisianalagniappe.wordpress.com). Similar in fashion to Horst’s first Lagniappe newsletter, she welcomed readers in the blog’s first post.
“We will be using this website as a way to provide additional or timely information we just can’t fit in the monthly newsletter,” the post reads, followed by a quick reminder that Lagniappe would still be available on the Louisiana fisheries website (www.seagrantfish.lsu.edu) each month.
The Lagniappe blog currently has 50 subscribers and is “even more specific” to the Sea Grant mission, Lively said. The site garners 30 to 40 page views daily. There are some days where page views may jump to several hundred after a post focused on shrimp is featured, she added.
Although both the Lagniappe newsletter and blog still cater to commercial and recreational fishermen. Lively said that the emphasis on commercial fishermen has been much stronger in recent years. She hopes to balance that more in the future, as well as target underserved populations, like the Vietnamese fishermen who make up a large percentage of Louisiana’s fishing industry.