The Roanoke Times is going through another of its reorganizations as it continues a headlong rush towards eventual abandonment of the newspaper business so it can become little more than a glorified blog.
Caught in the latest repackaging is longtime Times journalist Cody Lowe, who opted for early retirement along with graphic illustrator Rob Lunsford. Lunsford joined the Times staff in 1977, Lowe in 1978.
The Times is also eliminating a currently vacant editorial assistant position and laying off three more: Sports copy editor Shaun Hoy, metro team leader Kurt Heine and multimedia producer Jim Ellison.
Editor Carole Tarrant dropped the news on the staff in an email on Monday.
We were proud that we, unlike most newspapers, avoided layoffs as the recession kicked in three years ago. We took advantage of attrition and restructured our work, often incorporating creative ideas that you all made and invested in. We couldn’t have done it without you.
However, the recession continues to hold on and we do not expect to see growth in our print advertising base. The moves we are announcing today demonstrate that, while we are certainly not abandoning print, we are pursuing growth where growth continues to reside — on the digital side of our company. As painful as today is, I hope you will find some solace in knowing we are aggressively pushing forward. We must do so, now, so we can remain a competitive and vital business, one where your own careers can continue to grow.
Beginning this week, we will take the first concrete steps in building a newsroom that is oriented first toward delivering news online. We are reorganizing the online news team in anticipation of the dramatic changes that will occur next year as we install a new content management system, redesign roanoke.com, launch a new mobile application and further explore the delivery of news via tablets.
Her email went on to outline a reorganization that will focus heavily on online content while the print edition continues to wither on the vine.
When I moved back to the area in 2004, one of the first things I noticed was that the Roanoke Times was a lot thinner than the paper I reported for from 1965-69. The graphics were better and there was more focus on photojournalism but the content hole had shrunk.
The New River Current, the section that covered Floyd County — sometimes — read more like a community weekly than part of the area’s largest daily newspaper. Earlier this year, the Times sacked the Current and replaced it with The Burgs, an effort that is little more than an online blog with even less content in print.
Today’s home page of The Burgs features a third grade honor roll listing and a headline about an upcoming Thanksgiving dinner at a Lutheran Church in Blacksburg.
Am I the only one that finds it ironic that at a time when more and more blogs move towards a news format, newspapers are looking and reading more like blogs?
Sadly, the Times chose not to let its readers in on changes at the paper. A Times employee forwarded Tarrant’s email to us and it was also posted on the Poynter web site. WDBJ reported on it Tuesday.
The Times reports on other area companies that layoff employees. Why the double standard?
(Edited at 11:35 a.m. to correct the spelling of Carole Tarrant’s name. The proofreader shall be flogged.)