Friday, December 7, 2012

Top Reporters, Photographer Leaving Local Daily


Roanoke's daily paper continues to bleed veteran news professionals and it is now at a point where photographer Stephanie Klein-Davis recently wrote on Facebook that the entire photography staff consists of three people in Roanoke and one in the NRV. "So sad, Jeanna Duerscherl has left the building! We are now a staff of three downtown and one in the bureau. I can hardly handle any more of these going aways."

That "going away" joins two other veteran photographers, Eric Brady and Sam Dean, who left in August and the resignation of veteran reporters Mason Adams and Courtney Cutright most recently. I just learned that Sarah Bruyn Jones will also be leaving shortly. She is the health reporter. Adams covered government and Cutright had more of a general assignment, as I recall.

Another reporter tells me that "I notice the editorial board is picking up the slack and writing about what went on" at various government meetings." Adams is leaving journalism for an environmental job in Floyd. Word is that Lawrence Hammack, who covers courts, will move over to healthcare. No word on who goes to court, but I think readers would like to make a suggestion.

In addition, longtime copy editor John Gibbons, "who had been the main wire editor for at least 10 years, got the boot about 6 weeks ago," according to a former newsroom employee who maintains friendships there.

The publication has been operating with absurd staff levels for some time and institutional memory is at a low point. Institutional memory is as important to newspapers as computers are.


  1. The Toy Department remains fully staffed with eight reporters. Publisher knows what sells.

  2. The New River Bureau office has been up for sale for many months now -- it could be that what "reporters" are left there will be found across N. Franklin St. at the Starbucks bogarting the free wireless. Not that there is much in the way of news stories coming out of the bureau these days. The BURGS is a great collection of reader-submitted stories, press releases, "look at what I did" fluff, and lots of dumb photos that only Grandma cares about. There is occasional coverage of government meetings, but only when there is a crowd and controversy -- and pretty much only in Montgomery County. Giles gets rare mentions and anything south or west really doesn't exist. It may be time to drop the subscription and start taking the News Messenger.

  3. A few years ago there was a move afoot to buy out the News Messenger and turn it into a small-regional in what is now the Burgs coverage area, with the intent to bury the RT in this area. I have no doubt it would have succeeded (especially since I was going to work for them, haha) but the money guy decided it was time to sell his interests and retire to Florida.

  4. I find this news concerning for a multitude of reasons spanning various dimensions, based on my background and experience here in Roanoke over the last four years. It seems to me community members will need to accept greater responsibility and develop a weightier profile in order to meet foreseeable challenges.

  5. Anon: Try New River Voice online. The Burgs is a direct parallel to the zoned tabs in the Roanoke Valley, which are embarrassing. They remind me of Bella and CITY. Those mags have lowered the bar by having no original copy and paying for no news at all. Stories are generated by advertisers or, in CITY's case, people putting on a show. "Citizen journalism" gets an ugly, UGLY face because of this misuse of it. In Roanoke, Valerie Garner does a much better job covering government than the daily paper.

  6. Brian: Not sure what you're saying. Are you suggesting that the people in the community are responsible for the way the daily paper is being run (into the ground)?

  7. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the recognition. I’m not leaving journalism entirely -- and I'm torn about leaving such a great newsroom -- but the opportunity to work much closer to my family and in a job related to my background in biology was too much to pass up.

    For readers looking for more information about my move, I wrote a blog post about it over at the Blue Ridge Caucus:

    I would offer the observation that Roanoke Times is hiring a new wave of talented young reporters that will work and learn -- as I did -- from the veterans who remain in the newsroom.

    I’m consistently impressed by the energy and skills that newer reporters like Chase Purdy, Melissa Powell and others bring to the business. They not only can report and write — they can shoot photos, edit video and write computer code. They’ve got a bright future, and I’m looking forward to continue watching their talent unfold in the pages and online at the Roanoke Times.

    -- Mason Adams