Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More 'Voluntary Retirements' Offered at Local Daily

It appears that a local daily newspaper in Roanoke is continuing its drive toward getting rid of its institutional memory with a new retirement offer to employees who are 55 years old and who have 20 years' experience.

This "voluntary" retirement will likely affect some newsroom heavy hitters like Duncan Adams (a fine business reporter), Randy King (the Virginia Tech beat sports writer; that job has already been advertised), and copy editors (an area crucial to newspapers) Mark Bullock and Jerry Stone.

I'm not sure who else in the newsroom is near the age/experience levels  because most of the people I've known there over the years are gone. Sportswriter and University of Virginia beat reporter Doug Doughty is very close and my guess is he's in the group.

The most recent "voluntary retirement," offered Sept. 1, 2007, stripped out some marvelous journalists (think Joe Kennedy) and the employees at the time were given the choice of remaining employed (and taking the chance of being laid off) or taking a modest retirement package. (I can speak from modest retirement packages from the daily: mine was $89 a month after 20 years and was finally paid off in a lump sum.)

On top of this stripping of talent, the paper recently announced the publishing of "The Burgs" in the New River Valley, a couple of those god-awful, reader-generated zoned editions that are inexpensive to produce and apparently profitable--at least to a degree. They have no more to do with traditional journalism than does a high school paper, though.

The publisher was quoted on television and in a print story as saying the paper is in no danger of closing: "Our business is profitable, just not as profitable as we had expected to be this year." In the salad days of newspapering, profits of 14 percent a year were pretty much expected. One or two percent these days is closer to the norm.

Sad stuff this, seeing important staff cuts instead of thoughtful, long-term planning that concentrates on a superior journalistic package.

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