Silence prevails at Progress’ sister

Was the Richmond Times-Dispatch too terrified of Style Weekly to let its reporters– or even its editor or publisher– speak to a reporter for a story? If so, the tactic by the 156-year-old daily paper seems to have backfired, since the Style story, by Greg Weatherford, tells plenty of tales anyhow.

For instance, the T-D now ranks its reporters on a 1-5 scale with everyone starting out as a "2" until proven otherwise. “As long as circulation continues to drop," retired T-D music critic Clark Bustard explained, "we are all by definition below average.”

Parent company Media General which also owns Charlottesville's Daily Progress has no major history of Charlottesville accessibility for Hook stories. The paper has declined comment about its $8 Christmas bonuses, its redesign, and– most recently– the controversial decision to name adjudicated juvenile names.



Good story in Style weekly -- not too shrill, not too combative (as some alt. weeklies are wont to be in tussing with their daily counterparts).

The staff in the T-D newsroom, overall, is ancient. Time was, the T-D was a proving ground for reporters who wanted to jump to bigger things -- the Post, the Times, the Chicago Trib., Miami Herald, etc. Some did. Many others perceived a rather cushy existence could be had by scribbling a couple stories a week. Compared to MG's smaller publications, where reporters crank 4+ stories a day and are often expected to be "on call" should something come up on a weekend, the T-D crew has it pretty soft. Reporters at other MG papers feel blessed to get a 3 percent annual salary increase.

Still, the information in the Style article does reflect a pervasive and apparently accelerating tendency among the Media General suits to squeeze blood from the proverbial turnips. ironically, this is not exactly front page news to those in the know.

It's hard to fault the new managing editor for wanting to shake up a flabby newsroom. Take a look at how often you see the bylines for the TD's bureau reporters in the paper. The guys who cover Charlottesville, the Valley, or the Northern Neck are frequently in there about once or twice a week, and the the stories are inevitably short. It's no exagerration to think that those guys are pulling down about $45,000 a year to churn out a few hundred words of copy a week. It's cushy, alright.