Roanoke Times Hit Again with Newsroom Loss

Matt Chittum

( NOTE: The blue type, double-underlined, denotes ads that are inserted into this copy without my permission. I don’t know how to erase them. My apologies.)

Roanoke’s daily newspaper is once again bubbling over with news about itself that it doesn’t seem to want to report.

First, the news department (news, editorial, photo, sports, etc.) decided it wanted to form a guild–which is what professionals have instead of a union–and got a bunch of veterans to sign on.

Dwayne Yancey, editor of the editorial page, was not asked to join. He says, “Technically, I suppose I am regarded as a manager, altho[ugh] I have no one to manage. Not sure whether that was a local decision or a guild-wide rule.”

Now, it seems long-time reporter Matt Chittum, one of the paper’s most reliable professionals, has decided he wants to join a lot of other journalists who are making good salaries and have excellent benefits by taking a job at Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical Institute. Public relations at Carilion and Virginia Tech (which are often joined at the hip) has pulled a lot of professional journalists away from their jobs in the Roanoke Valley in the past few years because, well, the jobs are better in every way, especially in being appreciated.

Says Yancey, “The loss of Matt Chittum is a big loss. Lots of experience, deep local roots. You can’t buy that, even if your corporate masters want to.”

I wrote a piece for the Roanoker magazine recently detailing which journalist has gone where in the past few years and I found a lot of EX-journalists, though I’m certain I didn’t get them all.

I have thought of Chittum as a lifer for a lot of years. He has served in a number of capacities for The Times, always capably, and I’m sure he will do the same at Carilion.

The Timesland News Guild‘s online news statement goes like this: “For almost a decade, our larger parent company has been slashing our staff and the coverage that we provide. We must stand up to preserve local news and rebuild what we have lost to serve our readers and communities for the next 134 years.” People at The Times, from what I understand, have not received a pay increase in at least 10 years.

Chittum is one of 42 signatories to the guild’s initial attempt to form.

According to its press release, “The Timesland News Guild is asking Lee [which publishes the paper] to voluntarily recognize the guild and begin bargaining. If Lee does not, the guild will file for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. Elections typically take up to four weeks. The Timesland News Guild seeks to become a unit of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild Local 32035.”

The guild wants this:

  • Restore staff positions that have gone unfilled.

  • Fight for fair pay, cost-of-living increases and fair severance and buyout packages.

  • Negotiate affordable health insurance and equitable retirement benefits benefits.

  • Ensure that the diversity of our newsroom reflects our community.

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