Inside the Times-Dispatch Newsroom

The American Journalism Review has published a balanced overview of the “Culture Clash” in the newsroom of the Richmond Times-Dispatch as a new publisher, Tom Silvestri, and executive editor, Glenn Proctor, endeavor to reinvent the august family newspaper in an era of declining circulation and stagnant revenue.

Here’s the summary graph:

Some have bristled at the brusqueness of those moves and a harsh management style. But the angst at the Times-Dispatch–which is not shared by everyone in the newsroom–is less about the new sheriff in town than it is about concerns that have shaken newsrooms nationwide: the evolution of family-run newspapers into corporate entities, the delicate balance between public service journalism and financial pressures in a rapidly evolving and brutally competitive media environment. Together, Silvestri and Proctor, very much on the same page, have sped up a reader-friendly revolution that had been creeping through this rather comfortable paper for a few years. The moves are familiar: a mainly–or often solely–local front page; a focus on presentation; a push for localizing national stories; a growing emphasis on multimedia. Among the staff, there is praise for a livelier paper, greater diversity in hiring and in the news pages, a higher energy level in the newsroom. But for some, that energy is more like anxiety. The Times-Dispatch is divided among those who support stabs at creating a 21st-century business model and those who question whether the changes will alter the very foundation of journalism.

If the AJR feature whets your appetite for more inside-the-newsroom, gossip, don’t miss this piece in Style Weekly on the farewell address of Mark Holmberg, one of the T-D’s more popular writers. From Holmberg’s final post on the T-D’s internal forum, the “Water Cooler”:

In the past year we’ve seen all kinds of walls come down: The wall between news and editorial, the wall between news and marketing, news and circulation, news and advertising. News and HR. Not good. Does this mean we have news for sale or rent? Perhaps not yet. But the walls coming down make it more likely. It’s all happening bit by bit. Death by a thousand cuts. We put up with each little affront, thinking that will be it, wondering if our paychecks are more important than one little slap at the Fourth Estate.


: John Sarvay gives the AJR story extended treatment on his Buttermilk & Molasses blog. I love his description of Glenn Proctor, based on material in the article, as “an executive editor with the empathy of a Sith Lord. A Sith Lord with a gold stud earring…”

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2 responses to “Inside the Times-Dispatch Newsroom”

  1. E M Risse Avatar

    I lived near Herndon for a decade and have always considered it a prime example of why we need a governace structure that matches the organic components of human settlement patterns.

    Herndon is a natural village-scale component of Greater Reston. If there were elected Regional, Subregional (Because the National Calital Subregion falls in three states and on Federal District) and Community Governace then the organic powers delegated to Herndon and the neighborhoods with Herndon would match the instutional capacity of the citizes.

    Over the decades Herndon has used its seperate town status and 19th centruy Federal and state laws and regulations to screw up mail service, school boundarys, open land management, transportation planning, and the general settlment pattern between Dulles, Greater Sterling / Cascades and the rest of Greater Reston.

    The fuss over the labor center and now Bacon are just the latest of a long string of foolish decisions due to the misallocation of governance responsiblities.

    The naval officer for which Herndon is named deserves better.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Holmberg’s farewell may seem prophetic but selling marketing as journalism is nothing new at Mediocrity General. A few years back, the firm’s Tampa tv station got caught selling for cash favorable comment and interviews in a morning talk show it produced. The station and company caught the attention of the FCC, The Washington Post and Sen. John McCain.

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