This is the pre-consolidation Roanoke World-News staff in 1978, before anybody even imagined layoffs. We combined newspapers to save money, but nobody was fired. That’s me in the back, left, dark shirt.
It was pretty much inevitable that Roanoke’s daily newspaper would announce layoffs (10.5) after the Richmond Times-Dispatch–its sister in the Berkshire Hathaway family–did that yesterday (33).
Here‘s the story that appears on the Roanoke Times’ website (you have to search deep for it; it’s in the “business” section; scroll down). Appears to have been written by corporate.
The Richmond paper, another BH property, moved around and consolidated some sections and the RT has decided to eliminate SoSalem, SWoCo and Botetourt View, its community specialties, in addition to the job losses.
BH is laying about 10 percent of its newspaper employees nationally, according to the Times-Dispatch in an effort to counter the dramatic advertising losses in print and the fact that online advertising has not reached projections.
The layoffs include people in the news department, but mostly not on the first team. My favorite ex-wife was not among the jettisoned, I’m happy to say.
Those laid off worked for the community editions or were in sports or on the copy desk. (Reporter Matt Chittum, in a Facebook post, says the sports layoff was the “assistant sports editor,” but I looked up the sports department’s lineup and there was no assistant sports editor, only an “editorial assistant.”)
What isn’t quite recognized yet is that with the elimination of those zoned editions, the area weeklies have an opportunity to fill in the spaces and pick up some advertising that will be meaningful to them, maybe even to the point of hiring some of those laid off people. that kind of “journalism” (which isn’t journalism) has its value and has been a weekly newspaper tradition since the the Gutenberg press was invented.
From what I’ve read, those small, targeted papers are doing fairly well. I saw a Vinton Messenger the other day and it looks good. It appears to have one editorial employee, same as always, but a lot of community participation.
The Times’ New River Valley section, which runs four times a week, will now go to three (or two, depending on whom you ask), and the daily Extra section (which I helped introduce in the 1970s–and whose name was my suggestion) will shrink from daily to three days a week. Sunday Horizon is toast.
Years ago when Frosty Landon–who would become executive editor–edited Horizon as a high-toned and often pretentious section, one of the editors told him he should run stories people wanted to read. Frosty replied that he was running stories they ought to read.