Who Will Gather the News? A New Force in Richmond

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has hired a new executive editor — 59-year-old Glenn Proctor, an associated editor of the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. — to replace William H. Millsaps Jr., who has run the paper for 11 years. Publisher Thomas A. Silvestri described Proctor as “a firebrand on behalf of excellence in journalism.” (See story.)

Proctor is an ex-Marine, a seasoned newsman and… an African-American. As Michael Paul Williams, the T-D’s liberal black columnist observed, “This qualifies as a … seminal event not just in the history of this publication, but in a community where few corporate posts of this magnitude are held by people of color.”

Added Williams: “The uniform reaction to the news from other members of the ‘Caucus’ — the web of black journalists who once plied their trade here before moving on — was a collective ‘wow!’ Only the number of exclamation points varied.”

I interpret the Proctor appointment as consistent with Publisher Silvestri’s make-over of the T-D as a stronger force in the community. First we saw Silvestri’s “public square” initiative, promising a greater involvement in the community, accompanied by a discernible shift in the editorial pages in the treatment of local issues. Now we see the appointment of a forceful black executive editor whose predecessors 50 years ago defended massive resistance to integration.

If Proctor shares the shop-worn, blacks-as-victims narrative of Williams’ column, his relationship with Richmond could be a very rocky one. But I’m hoping that won’t be the case. I expect that Proctor will reflect the can-do ethic of the Marines he sprang from. In which case, we can all say, Welcome to Richmond!

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    It won’t matter a damn if they can’t get the thing in my driveway by 6 a.m. The old carrier got it there by 5, the new carrier is spotty at 6 (6:20 today in the rain)– which means they have lost my early-to-work wife as a loyal daily reader and I spend less time with it.

  2. SouthoftheJames.com Avatar

    I’m guessing that an ex-Marine with over 3 decades of journalism experience in places like Newark, Akron, Iowa, Rochester and Philly who was also a congressional press secretary will not have the tendencies that you fear, Jim. As for Williams, remember that nearly all of his journalism career has been spent inside the halls of the RTD which, given that paper’s history, brings a more personal tale of woe for him than is readily understood. From what I’ve seen, that “battle” tends to permeate much of his writing. At worst, Proctor’s hiring will shake up things across the street at the Richmond Free Press so that paper can be more than the “RTD hates blacks” newspaper that it is now.

    Personally, I like that Proctor will be pushing the paper beyond the frontiers of its sleepy, gentile coverage. Maybe they can actually compete with the Virginian-Pilot and WashPost on quality, if not size. Richmond – all of the Metro – deserves a better lead newspaper.

    — Conaway

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