Friday, May 31, 2013

Next Big Media Thing: No Fulltime Photographers

“I think I would read that to mean who’s shooting that video: the reporters. I think once again you may end up getting what you pay for.”

--Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel at the National Press Photographers Association, on the Chicago Sun-Times' decision to lay off its entire photo staff in favor of "freelance photographers" here.

(The Newspaper Guild president responded to the layoff thusly: “As a union, we are deeply concerned about the workers who are losing good, family-wage jobs. As an organization of journalists, we are appalled that any newspaper would treat its photojournalists as expendable.”) The beat goes on and my profession continues to eat itself alive.


Quote: The Day the Competition Died

"My major concern is that it is yet another erosion of the competition between newspapers that not only made things more fun for journalists, but better for readers. [Lynchburg's papers] compete with Roanoke in the Bedford and Smith Mountain Lake markets, which are significant, and in the case of Virginia Tech sports. Unfortunately, it's human nature not to work as hard to break a story if there's no danger that the 'other side' will have it first."

--Anonymous veteran journalist on the purchase of Roanoke's daily newspaper by Berkshire Hathaway Newspaper Group, meaning the papers in Roanoke and Lynchburg have the same owner and the same publisher.

A (Welcome?) Changing of the Guard at the Roanoke Daily

Terry Jamerson
Roanoke's daily newspaper has gone from the frying pan into the ... well, we'll have to see where it has landed and that will take some time. I hope it has landed on a plate of old bone china.

We do know that the paper was bought by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Newspaper Group, that the worst publisher in its history--to my mind--has been replaced by a publisher of a paper half its size and that the publication was not a first-choice purchase by BH, which bought some of its sister publications recently.

Berkshire Hathaway has only recently gone into the newspaper business, given its principal's interest there, not because it is a lucrative industry. Buffett is an unabashed fan of newspapers--as are many people in their 80s. It is a dying industry and he's fighting against a rough grain in his noble attempt to save it. Maybe he has some ideas. The people who own papers of the size of Roanoke's (75,000 circulation, its' officials say, and Lynchburg's, 35,000) seem to be out of those ideas, preferring to lean on "citizen journalism" (how would one define a "non-citizen journalist"?). The Audit Bureau for Circulation (ABC) says the Roanoke paper's circulation is 67,000, the first time it's been under 70,000 in many years.

I'm not sure I approve of an unabashed liberal (Buffett) owning papers as playthings any more than I approve of right-wing crazies (the Kochs) owning papers as political message boards, however.

Landmark sold the Roanoke daily after years of preparation--downsizing--with no interest from outside. It hired Debbie Meade about five years ago to turn the trick and her management led Tom Field and me (who ran the Blue Ridge Business Journal, a subsidiary of the paper) at the time, to leave and found FRONT magazine. Meade has officially "retired" from her position. An "early retirement," as it were. You can bet, though, that BH wanted its own people in place and that she was not given a choice.

Circulation has consistently been on a downward trend and efforts at bolstering it or shifting it to the web have been uneven. Costs have been cut to the point that the paper misses coverage of important events or relies on AP to cover them. The local touch is often missing. "We don't have the resources" has become a mantra for those looking for excuses for lack of quality.

Warren Buffett
The paper has dismissed many of its best, most experienced reporters, preferring low salaries of kids to institutional and community memory the veterans brought. It retains some fine newspaper people, but the leash it has on them is taut and their work is often only a shadow of their capabilities. The best hope is that the reduced quality of the paper is a reflection of the cuts required to make it salable and that BH and its executives will restore news coverage money to previous levels. Don't bet on it, though.

I don't know Terry Hall Jamerson well, but I know that recently she went to bat for an old friend of mine who ran into a web of corporate bureaucracy and saved his job.

I also know that when I was with the Business Journal about 30 years ago (before the daily bought us), we had an unpleasant run-in with her. She was publisher of the News-Messenger in Christiansburg, which printed us. We went to another printer. But I don't know how much of that was her--as a young executive trying to impress--or her bosses using bad business judgement.

I know that I covered her high school basketball hall of fame daddy, Husky Hall, when he was at Martinsville and I was at the local daily and I thought he was always a class act and a fine coach.

My friend Dina Bennett, who owns Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Adventure and was at the Roanoke paper pre-Meade, says, "I worked with Terry for a number of years. I can tell you she is very active in the community acting always as a strong and influential advocate for many local causes. Her role as publisher was broad as she spanned the state overseeing community newspapers. I've heard from some friends still with the News & Advance in Lynchburg that the BH purchase is providing more resources and opportunities. I have high hopes for our local daily!"

Troubling about Jamerson is that she comes from advertising. Meade came from HR. Publishers are best when they come from news, but that doesn't happen much any longer with corporate ownership. We've  lost that journalistic edge because of it. Not so troubling is that Jamerson is a strongly involved member of her community in Lynchburg. I never thought Meade was more involved than she had to be and rarely saw any enthusiasm in her for anything.

I want to welcome Terry Jamerson and her executives (one of whom, I hope, is a new executive editor) to Roanoke and wish her the very best in this new step up the corporate ladder for her. I hope she succeeds. If she does, we all benefit.

(Finally, let me mention that I sincerely hope that the two editorials on this subject in this morning's edition are a sign of what we're losing, not what we're gaining. They were self-serving corporate communications bullshit.)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Photo of the Day: Leah at the Pottie

Couldn't resist this shot. Leah and I were leaving downtown Lynchburg this afternoon (where her son's new sculpture had just been dedicated) and I spotted this bank of portable potties. I asked if she'd follow me and serve as a model. "Whacha got in mind?" she said. I told her. She posed. How many of you have a honey who'd do that?

Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead!

I'm out of town and just heard. Sonofabitch! Not at all expected by me, but hey, people's investments are a private matter. You buy what you think will work, even if it's not working when you buy it.

More later, I'm sure.

Next Three Classes Set for RRWC Writers Series

Karen Prior will talk about memoir in July.
The Writers Series classes continue to round into shape with the addition of a July class on biography and memoir and an August class on writing Public Radio essays.

The classes are scheduled July 17 and August 21 at 6:30 in the auditorium at Community High School and are sponsored by the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference.

Connie Stevens and I recording an essay at WVTF.
The memoir/biography class will feature Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior, whose most recent book is Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me a look, via memoir, at the importance of writing in her life. Karen is funny, perceptive and a fine teacher.

Connie Stevens and I will teach a class on writing essays for public radio in August. Connie, for my money, is the best electronic news reporter to emerge from this region (and I'm including some of the national figures) and she is the news director for WVTF, which airs the essays regularly.

Karen Chase
Connie assigns and edits many of the essays and has an occasional show featuring nothing but essays. She's a strongadvocate of the form and of much more inventive radio programming.

I've been writing radio essays for north of 20 years and have written many dozens of them. It is a form many writers are interested in and I get a lot of questions about becoming involved. Here's your chance to learn how to do it.

The June 19 class, previously announced, has Karen Chase, a former Roanoke designer, talking about her book Bonjour 40, Karen's blog-to-book group of essays recording her 40th birthday, 40-day trip to Paris. It's a wonderful (and quite attractive) read and it is one of the self-publishing success stories of recent vintage.

Quote of the Day: Yet Another Anti-Immigrant Theory Debunked

Immigrants have contributed billions of dollars more to Medicare in recent years than the program has paid out on their behalf, according to a new study, a pattern that goes against the notion that immigrants are a drain on federal health care spending.

NYTimes this a.m. (here)


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Photos: An Evening with the Pampettes

Big sister re-boots Oz.
Annette Patterson has "a monkey on my back" and it's Maddie.
Oz looks like an old man in his favorite chair ... at a year and a half.
Maddie works on her diving form. Not bad.
Oz spots Pampa.
I think they like each other.
OK, nothing serious here, just Pampa taking great pleasure in the Pampettes. Move along. Nothing to see.

Photo of the Day: A Brief Respite from the Books

Your favorite editor just got back from a quick kayak run at Carvin's Cove and this is what it looked like. Pristine. Bright. Cool and breezy. Warm sun.

Eat your heart out.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photo of the Day: Aiming at Nothing

This is my pal Anne Sampson with her trusty Canon on the greenway yesterday at South Roanoke Park. She was looking for me, but I was hiding behind my camera. Anne's quite a photographer, good writer, excellent dancer, fine musician. Some people get it all.

Quote of the Day: Breaking the NRA's Hold

"Political science research shows that politicians consistently overestimate the conservatism of their constituents. But in this case, there was something more debilitating at work. The political class often lets old assumptions blind it to shifting realities. And the absolute power of the NRA is one of the oldest and least-tested assumptions in Washington."

--Alec MacGillis in The New Republic (here) writing about how the NRA's grip is slipping and it is finally getting some deep-pocket opposition, hell bent on breaking its hold on gun owners.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Quote of the Day: 'Obamacare' and 'Meanspirited' Republicans

"... here’s what it seems is about to happen: millions of Americans will suddenly gain health coverage, and millions more will feel much more secure knowing that such coverage is available if they lose their jobs or suffer other misfortunes. Only a relative handful of people will be hurt at all. And as contrasts emerge between the experience of states like California that are making the most of the new policy and that of states like Texas whose politicians are doing their best to undermine it, the sheer meanspiritedness of the Obamacare opponents will become ever more obvious."

--Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman on the Affordable Care Act's prospects (here)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Festival: New Name, New Site, Not Much of Interest

Elvis food at Festival (no longer In the Park) today.
Jacob Seale (12) belted "Up a Lazy River" with Sinatra-like grace and a fine voice.
Jacob has a crush on one of these Miss Mona's dancers, I'd bet ...
... or maybe one of these dancers.
I use old windows like this for some of my own photos (and they sell).
This is Festival's authentic carny look.
OK, Dave, I'll get the doughnuts, you cuff the perp.
Somewhere, they're protesting Monsanto; where are the protesters for this health food?
Dave Schmitzer draws Emma (13) and Olivia (8) Tingle.
Strolling through the crowd at Festival.
That's a bank of portable potties behind this group of eaters.
Little girl looking for her mama through the bouncie window.
Next door, a kite flew in the park.
I don't want to be overly critical of the new Festival (a re-do of the old Festival in the Park), but my brief trip down today led me to one conclusion: It ain't much without its real home downtown. Because of construction in Elmwood Park, where the old Festival grew up over the past 30 or so years, it had to move itself and its new name to the site of the former Victory Stadium in South Roanoke this year and it is worse for the wear.

(I will note here, parenthetically, that it was not wise to simply re-name this festival Festival, since Roanoke has a dozen or so festivals--not necessarily Festivals--to choose from and the first question when you say, "Hey, let's go to Festival," will be "Can you be a little more specific?")

Your favorite editor is a bit worse for the wear, too, forgetting, as he did, to load a disk into his camera with the wide angle lens and taking a bunch of really fine photos that went nowhere, and so neither of us gets to see them.

Here's what we found on a beautiful Sunday afternoon--with a longer lens--and my favorite, I think, was young Jacob Seale's lounge singer version of "Up a Lazy River" on the main stage.

It appeared to me that there were only a fraction of the craftsmen in attendance this year and I can see why. The bad food was in plentiful supply, though. That always seems to be the case.

Once Again, the Local Daily Misses Important Event

While the local daily is busy this morning congratulating itself on its new So Salem community "journalist" hire and showcasing one of its own in-house journalists (working with a freelance photographer) in coverage of Festival, I'm still trying to find even a brief on the local Monstanto protest. This is a national story with a strong local angle,  but we don't get to share in it if we rely only on the paper.

These short shrifts for local events are becoming laughably (so sad you have to laugh) consistent. At least one of you will accuse me of "bitching" about this, but point out something as persistently egregious as a local newspaper missing important events in its coverage, I think, rises a bit above bitching.

Anyhow, are we surprised? No. Should the paper's execs be distressed that we're not surprised? Yes. Are they? No.

(Here's WDBJ7's coverage and the photo above is from that station. Apparently the TV station doesn't have the same resource problems as the paper.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Yard Sale: Sometimes They're Worth the Stop

As I was walking out the door to attend a news conference this morning, I noted that my sweet old lady neighbor was having a yard sale, so--not being one to resist this specific temptation--I thought I'd give it a once-over.

Here's what I came away with. For $8 I got all this and a new-ish single bed sheet that I'll use as a photo backdrop. Five of the pieces here are new. The jewelry bag is hand-made by my neighbor's daughter.

I don't know if any of the stones are real or if any of the "gold" and "silver" are gold and silver, but I don't care, either. I'm not wearing them.

Love this stuff. really pretty, seems nicely made for the most part and generally useful.

This is why I can't find my way around a yard sale or flea market.

Question of the Day: Where Was the Local Daily?

The tent was full, but did not contain a rep from the local daily.
The newsie question of the day: Where the hell was the local daily this morning when the new The Bridges complex, which will extend downtown Roanoke and is expected to be a huge economic boost to the city, was celebrated with a ground breaking? The event was about a mile from the paper's building, so cost would not have been an issue, I'd guess.

I just looked at its online edition and there is no mention of the ground-breaking. I heard a number of people--prominent people--at the event asking the same question. The rest of the news media was there and even I--no longer a member of the daily mob of media--was in attendance at what I think we all considered to be a major event. In less than a week, the local daily has pretty well bagged on Local Colors and this event.

Not good, boys and girls. Not good at all.

Photo of the Day: 'A Fun Lunch Date'

Ran into my buddy Sam Steidle this morning at the groundbreaking for the new Bridges complex on South Jefferson Street and we stopped for lunch at Norah's afterwards for a few words. Sam has one of the most active and inventive business minds I know and she's always using it for somebody's good.

She recently started teaching entrepreneurism at Virginia Western Community College and for the last couple of years, she's housed very small businesses in her Business Lounge in downtown Roanoke.
Sam's always full of exciting new ideas and is a sponge for anyone offering anything interesting. She's a fun lunch date.

(I neglected to get the name of the delightful young woman who took this picture, but she's a waitress at Norah's whose father was an avid photographer.)

The Bridges Kicks Off Riverside Project in Roanoke

Ground is broken for the new The Bridges complex on South Jefferson Street in Roanoke.
Artist's drawing of Phase I.
Bern Ewert talks to the TV people.
Bern Ewert talks, Aaron keeps the graphic covered.
Here's the money behind the project.
Ground was broken this morning for another significant extension of Downtown Roanoke, this one a complement to the Virginia Tech Carilion complex on South Jefferson Street. The 22-acre Bridges project will begin with a restaurant, apartment building, office space and river walk directly across from VTC.

Here is the press release:

Developers today broke ground on a multi-year, mixed-use development that includes new apartments, restaurants, offices and retail space on the site of a former mill and scrap yard – the largest development of its kind in Roanoke.

Paula Byron (right) represented VTC Research Institute.
The 22-acre project, named The Bridges, will expand downtown Roanoke along South Jefferson Street, complementing the Virginia Tech-Carilion School of Medicine & Research Institute and Riverside office complex currently across the street, as well as an adjacent site under the Walnut Street bridge.

Over the next decade, The Bridges is planned to grow to 1 million square feet of residential, retail and office space that will connect downtown with the Roanoke River to create a destination that will include a public river walk, kayak launch and riverfront dining.

Construction is set to begin in June. 
Aaron Ewert introduces his dad, Bern.
“The Bridges has the potential to further transform Roanoke into a vibrant, livable city where people of all ages can live, work and play in an area designed for convenience and connectivity,” said Bern Ewert, former Roanoke city manager who envisioned the project and co-founder of Roanoke River Associates, which founded the project. 

“Providing additional public access to the river is a crucial component of this project as we extend downtown, further building upon new and revitalized construction that has increased the number of downtown residents and dining options.

“This bold project took the work of a lot of people and organizations, and we are grateful for the unwavering support and cooperation of Carilion Clinic, the City of Roanoke and the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority to clear and prepare the land for development,” Ewert added.

The Bridges name is a nod to two wide and distinctive bridges (Jefferson Street and Walnut Street) bisecting the development. The name also refers to how the project will extend the downtown core to South Jefferson Street and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Bern Ewert at the podium.
“Symbolically, as our city moves from its industrial heritage to an economy built on knowledge, medicine and technology, The Bridges connotes how the city is moving forward by crossing an important bridge,” Ewert added. “As this project transforms a former industrial site to one of life, ideas and innovation, it’s very much a bridge to our future.”

“This is a major milestone in Roanoke’s history,” added Roanoke Mayor David Bowers. “The development team has a track record of creating vibrant, active and dynamic multi-use projects by preserving the character and history of older buildings and creating new options. This project is crucial to connecting downtown to the river – a key step for any great river city. Great cities have great downtowns, and many of them have rivers. We will soon be able to say we are one of them, bringing new energy and vitality to our riverfront as we continue to redefine our future.”
Phase I: Restaurant, apartment building, office space and river walk
The Bridges is being developed by Richmond-based WVS Companies, which purchased Roanoke River Associates and has worked on numerous projects that reuse existing buildings and amenities to create new communities. The property is ideally located to serve employees at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital as well as employees and students of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute and the Jefferson College of Health Sciences. WVS is the developer of Rocketts Landing in Richmond, an urban community on the banks of the James River.
WDBJ7's Joe Dashiel interviews Mayor David Bowers
The property is divided into two sections – the Jefferson Street District and the River District – with three blocks and two points of access to South Jefferson Street. The first phase of The Bridges will include a 6,684-square-foot restaurant/coffee house, office space and a 139,084-square-foot, 157-unit apartment building along South Jefferson Street. It will include a public promenade along the river, kayak launch, sidewalks and streetscapes.

The project has received $10 million in financing from the City of Roanoke for public infrastructure such as riverside park, sidewalks, landscaping and new roadways within the triangular-shaped site.

The restaurant/coffee house will be located in an existing building that once was part of a lumber yard. The look of the historic building, located on the southern end of the property, will be preserved during its rehabilitation as a dining hotspot.

Journalist Valerie Garner gets the shot.
The new apartment building, to be constructed on a new frontage road, will include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and lower-level parking. The project is targeting both working professionals and students with a modern, industrial aesthetic appeal to contrast with historical structures on the property.

he apartments will include an on-site leasing office, meeting room, game room, fitness center and club room. A courtyard will include a trellised seating area, built-in gas grills, fire pit, water feature and lawn.

The apartments feature a contemporary design, with an exterior coated metal and large, partially enclosed balconies with metal railings and side metal panels and large windows.

The first phase also will include 31,000 square feet of rehabilitated commercial space in two of the six historic structures slated for adaptive reuse on the site. One of them includes the Trolley Barn, close to the Walnut Street bridge. It’s an ideal location for a microbrewery, gym or creative space.

The Trolley Barn housed street trolleys during the early 20th century and with its concrete construction, high ceilings and numerous skylights is planned to be multi-tenanted space located along the river walk.Also planned – an office complex ideal for medical-related businesses, financial services companies, start-ups and other service companies. This new construction will front South Jefferson Street with three stories of office and retail space on top of ground-level parking.
Sam Steidle of the Business Lounge shows interest.
Phase II: Additional retail, housing and entertainment options available 

If successful, The Bridges development will extend to the former site of Virginia Bridge & Ironworks property for additional retail, entertainment and housing options.

“This development has everything we look for in a mixed-use project,” says Jason Vickers-Smith, owner of WVS. “Our team loves the Blue Ridge Mountains and we enjoy the ease of doing business in this friendly region. We are excited to break ground on a project that will change the landscape of Roanoke for future generations to enjoy.”

A big crowd showed up for the annnouncement.
“We are confident that WVS can achieve long-term success based on the company’s proven developments to reintroduce abandoned or historic property to the public,” Ewert added.

“The Bridges will play a major role in Roanoke’s current adaptive reuse movement found throughout our urban core. Along with our existing recreational amenities such as the greenway, Mill Mountain Park and River’s Edge Sports Complex, The Bridges will become a destination for the Roanoke Valley for decades to come.”