Looks like the financial situation is reaching epic depths at the local daily newspaper in Roanoke as circulation falls through the floor, people are sent packing and departments are flattened. The latest cutback, following on the heels of the ditching of the 22-year-old Blue Ridge Business Journal, is with reviews, which I don't expect to get much notice.
I'm told by a source inside that Jeff DeBell and Chris Gladden, both of whom have been tied to the daily for far more than 25 years, will no longer be freelance reviewers. The paper will apparently go with wire service reviews and take the local feel out of it, ala Clear Channel. Each was a long-time employee of the paper before leaving. Jeff was features editor and Chris was one of the best read feature writers ever.
Jeff and Chris were colleagues of mine when I was at the paper in the features department in the late 1970s and early '80s, the heyday of cultural coverage. The three of us reviewed just about anything that moved (and you can throw books into that mix, too). It was a lively section and the reviews led to interviews with some of the biggest acts and actors in America for the hometown newspaper. The arts felt relevant.
Now you simply cannot find a review of a play in town and there's not much else reviewed, save for an occasional opera or symphony performance. Books has gone from being important, to having two part-time editors, to one (one was fired) who has so much else to do that she can't possibly do a good job.
It looks like they're giving up, if they didn't give up two years ago when this snowballing seems to have started.
We can all grieve for what was, but I doubt we can get it back. Too bad.