Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reporting Changes Underway at Roanoke Times

(I posted this a few days ago, but noting it was nearly a month old, took it down because I thought it was not timely. Apparently, few people are aware of the changes being made at the region's largest newspaper, changes that will affect the news many read. So here it is again.)

The Roanoke Times is preparing to reorganize its news reporters and some editors to emphasize "what should we look like and how should we operate as a smaller newsroom?” Executive Editor Carole Tarrant (pictured) asked in a memo to the staff. Most of these changes will be implemented by the end of June, according to the memo.

Tarrant announced several structural changes that "we hope [will] reinforce [certain] priorities within the newsroom and our readership as a whole.” Emphasizing that the company's target reader remains a mother with children at home (a goal it shares with Bella magazine), she wrote that "the entire company is re-evaluating how to work in the most efficient manner. We recognize that we've taken many steps in that direction already, with a number of newsroom jobs transformed altogether or not filled ... The challenges we faced as an industry before the recession will remain--and even intensify. It is not likely, in fact, that we will be hiring from outside for the rest of this year.” [The rumor mill suggests that last statement might be premature.]

Among the changes:
  • Steve Hemphill becomes sports team leader,” replacing Jeff Gilbert, who will teach journalism at Cedarville University.
  • New Channels editor Dwayne Yancey will supervise Chris Winston at The Current (the paper's New River Valley edition), consolidating niche publications under one senior-level manager. Yancey "will be a conduit between the news and advertising staffs that work on Current, and a planned TMC entertainment pub.”
  • Natalee Waters has been named photo "team leader."
  • Rob Lunsford will report to Andrew Svec in a change that "will effectively merge the art and advance design teams [and] increase the collaboration between the designers and the graphic artists."
  • Stephanie Ogilvie will join as dayside delivery editor, "which will focus on's greatest advantage--the ’now-ness’ it offers.” Her previous position will not be filled.
  • Matt Chittum will become part of the "public safety team" and "will retain his data delivery duties.”
  • Mike Allen becomes arts beat reporter/blogger and Kevin Kittredge will be one of two new regional [general assignment reporters] in features. Allen will cover Botetourt, Lexington and points north and Ralph Berrier will work the New River Valley "and points south."
Not reported in this memo was that schools reporter David Harrison is reported to be planning to attend graduate school beginning in the next few months.


  1. If the target readership is moms with kids at home, that explains the lack of substance, the humongous pictures, and the increased fluff in the RT.

    What about us retired folks who have been reading the RT for decades? Don't we matter anymore? Please bring back actual content. We crave real news.

  2. Becky, it always amuses me when newspapers scream, "Who will do the investigative digging necessary to keep democracy alive?" and the lead story in that day's edition is about the proper application of eyeliner. AP just hired several "sourced out" groups to do some of its investigative work, a kind of freelance legitimacy.

  3. I hope the investigative digging uses primary sources instead of whatever's at the top of a Google search.

    As for the RT's latest glaring omission, one of the top ten horse shows in the nation is at the Salem Civic Center this week. I've looked in the RT sports section every day to see the results of the competition. Nothing but one story per day on one competitor. Couldn't someone at the RT contact the show secretary for each day's results?

    I read more news on blogs (including yours, Dan) than I read in a week's worth of the RT.