Friday, August 13, 2010

Rex Bowman Leaving RT (of His Own Accord)

The Roanoke Times is once again losing a prized reporter, but this time it’s the reporter’s decision and there is no animosity in the departure. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Rex Bowman (right), who has been with the RT for a few days more than a year is leaving to take a federal government job as a Russian translator. He says he can’t be more specific than that because of the nature of the position.

My good friend Rex, who spent 12 years with the Times-Dispatch in Richmond (most as its Western Virginia bureau) where he won a room full of awards, leaves in October and he will have accumulated 25 years as a journalist.

In the past few years, The RT has dismissed a number of veteran reporters, generally for cost-cutting reasons and most people agree you can see evidence of their leaving in the product. The cuts follow an industry trend as newspapers shrink and increasingly lose circulation. The Times' circulation has fallen significantly recently.

The Times was Rex's 10th newspaper and he has also written for Time magazine and Reuters news wire. He worked for CourtTV as a stringer for six years.

Rex says, “The last year with the RT has been one of my most enjoyable in journalism. I really have had a blast here, and they've treated me so well here I really hate to leave them.” I’ll take Rex’s word for that, but I also know him to be a cheerful, happy guy who adjusts to his surroundings well and looks for the good in people—not your normal reporter’s profile. Rex was the only person I could find who would say anything good about the former owner of Cantos Booksellers before she left town.

In any case, he has covered some big Virginia stories in the past 17 years: the DC-area sniper shootings, the Tech killings, the Appalachian Law School shootings, the coming of women to VMI, the switched-baby case at UVa medical center. “And, of course, I was an embedded reporter during the invasion of Iraq,” he says. “But now it's time to re-invent myself.”

Rex joined the Air Force after graduating from Lord Botetourt High School in 1979 and became a translator working in West Berlin for three years. “That's the entirety of my experience in government work,” he says. “Though I became a reporter shortly after leaving the military, I've continued to read and study Russian.”

Rex will continue to live out of Roanoke (with his swell wife Jennifer), though his job will take him to D.C. frequently.

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