Monday, December 13, 2010

Radford U. To Take Over NR Voice; Tim Jackson to Asheville

(Update: The comments section below asks some important questions about the future of Voice. I posed them to Tim Jackson, the resigning founder/editor. Here's what he said:

(As I said in the initial letter, “A few details need to be ironed out.” And that is very true. Here’s what I know:

(I agreed to gift the Voice to the RU School of Communication [or another RU entity that would allow the School of Communication to operate the Voice] provided they agreed to the three terms I mentioned, which was that it would maintain editorial independence, it would continue to serve the entire New River Valley, and it would continue to use contributors from the community.

(The School of Communication is very interested in making this happen, but they are working out the details of just how the gift would be designated and how it would be operated within the school’s curriculum.

(The most recent word I received from folks at the School of Communication was that it would have professors acting in capacities such as Managing Editor, Community Editor, and Business Manager. The School of Communication, or I guess the Director of the School, would act as publisher. Students would obviously have a major role in content creation, but the Community Editor would also make sure that content is coming from outside contributors as well.

(As I said, that was the last I heard and only one scenario. I think they are debating the details daily. So all of that could change.

(As they finish up with exams this week, I think they will hold more meetings and I may learn additional information.)

The promising New River Voice, which was launched a few months ago as an online, non-profit local newspaper will be absorbed by Radford University and its founder (and my friend) Tim Jackson (right) will move to Asheville to take another publishing job.

Tim put a lot of heart and soul into this effort, but it didn't work the way he thought it might. He might have been premature with the "new media" launch, one that is almost certain to be at least part of the solution for the crumbling newspaper empires. Like the Studebaker of old, maybe this one's just a bit ahead of its time.

Here's what Tim had to say in a letter to those involved (I am on the editorial board):

"Well friends, it’s been quite a ride. When I first came up with the idea for the New River Voice about four years ago, I felt the New River Valley needed a publication that was not afraid to look at alternative viewpoints and that truly would be a voice for the people of the New River Valley.

"I tried every way I could to make it work, but financially, it has been a major drain, and the time has come to move on. Perhaps someone with greater business acumen could have made it work as a for-profit entity. And perhaps with more time it would have survived, and maybe thrived, as a nonprofit journalistic organization under the purview of the new Freedom Foundation of Southwest Virginia (FFSWVA).

"But my time ran out. Faced with all the debt and financial strain we could handle, Taryn and I knew that something had to change if we were going to survive. And so things are changing. I am taking a job as the Web editor for an arts and culture publication called The Laurel of Asheville, which is, obviously, located in Asheville, N.C.

"Asheville is a great town with lots of opportunities and we are excited about the move. But, of course, part of me feels battered, bruised, and defeated in letting go of the Voice.

"As for its future, the tentative plan is for it to be passed on at the end of the year to the School of Communication at Radford University. A few details need to be ironed out, but if this works out, fellow Editorial Advisory Board member Bill Kovarik will have a strong hand in overseeing the new New River Voice as it becomes part of RU and, it is hoped, a great learning tool for its students.

"The Voice is being turned over with the agreement that it maintains its editorial independence, continues to cover the full New River Valley, and continues to work with community members for content in addition to the content provided by students.

" I know that Jenn Mackay and Patrick Beeson had experience with Dateline Alabama back in the day at UA and Melissa Chessher may have experience with a communication school operating a publication, too. I’m sure Bill will welcome any ideas or suggestions as we make this transition.

"I had hoped to utilize you all better as folks who could critique what we were doing, but the money to do those social justice and investigative pieces I dreamed of just never materialized. In fact, the money to pay even for our expenses never materialized, which made such a move necessary.

"I am disappointed that we could not make the New River Voice into the solid independent publication that this area deserves but I do believe we’ve had a substantial impact on this community."

Good luck Tim. May you complete your dream some day.


  1. So who exactly is supposed to run this...the students? How will they make sure the university doesn't perform prior review if they technically own it? Who actually paid for it?

    There are still too many questions.

  2. Anon: Please see the update at the top of the post.