Friday, April 3, 2009

Bowman, Thornton Looking for New Gigs

Rex Bowman and his wife, Jennifer, at a Salem baseball game (above); Tim Thornton (right)>

Rex Bowman is looking for opportunities today and I suspect they're out there in places he doesn't even know to look yet. Tim Thornton's already landing softly into other things.

Rex is the two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee who was laid off by the Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday. That layoff of the Roanoke-based Western Virginia bureau chief came a week after he was named the winner of the J. Stuart Bryan Award, signifying the RT-D's best reporter for the year.

Tim was recently given little choice but to resign from The Roanoke Times after exemplary service for years there. (See previous posting.)

Rex says the T-D was more than fair, more than gracious with its severance package and in the way in which he was let go. That contrasts dramatically with the way many businesses facing the elimination of jobs react and I was truly glad to hear it. He deserves a good, appreciative sendoff, one made necessary by conditions he didn't create. He was a valued employee and the apper treated him that way. Rex was part of the bureau system created not that many years ago and Richmond's paper was a holdout in that regard. It has since announced it will concentrate its efforts in the Richmond area.

The dignity with which the T-D handled the situation with Rex, though, impresses me. Good for you, T-D. You might want to hold a seminar for some of your Western Virginia colleagues.

Rex says he'd love to get into the "country weekly editor" mode, and he'd be good at it, though my guess is that it's a part of the profession that won't be here in a few years. He'd be one of the old-style crusaders, which almost don't exist any longer (unless you count my pal Anne Adams in Highland County) because it's expensive and time consuming to do that kind of reporting.

Rex is running his first marathon next week and he and I will be able to catch a few more ball games for a while. He said he did his normal early-morning basketball game today, but wound up staying a good bit longer than usual because he could. I'm absolutely certain he will look back in a few weeks and consider the departure from the daily paper grind to have been good for him.

One irony: Rex was preparing a story for the Times-Dispatch on Tim's departure and the sudden and strong reaction to it. He was also working on a piece noting the 20th anniversary of the Pittston Coal strike, and the fact that the operators who were central to it are mostly out of the coal business today. Could have been a couple of fine investigative pieces, the kind both Rex and Tim are known for. That won't be done now. Too bad. But that's the reality of today's newspaper business.

Meanwhile, Tim Thornton (see previous post about him leaving The Roanoke Times) stopped by the office today to chat. There seems to ge a growing cadre of former RT employees out there looking to get busy with the next part of their careers. It's a good time to be in my editor's chair and be able to offer work to these talented people. Tim has already lined up a stringing gig with public radio and some freelance opportunities in the region, including a story for us. As bad as I feel for these guys' loss of income, I am grateful that they are available and offering their talents to us.


  1. The "country editor" mode is appealing, and more needed than ever.

    !'ve been thinking a lot about I.F. Stone ( lately, and about how little reporting (Stone was a reporter with opinions, but his opinions were sure as hell reported) there is in the blog-o-verse.

    Stone, of course, was self-supporting, which is challenging on the Net; so much is free that it's increasingly tough to persuade paying customers to, well, pay.

    As you point out, country editing is expensive. Costlier, though, for the culture to live without careful, aggressive reporting. But our culture has become so celebrity-besotted that it may not notice what's being lost, nor miss it much when it's gone.

  2. As usual, Keith Ferrell has a marvelous insight ...