The Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday laid off 33 people, including 13 newsroom staffers, and announced it will cut certain sections in its print edition, decisions management characterized as necessary for the newspaper’s future viability.
Thomas Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, notified the newspaper’s employees of the cuts in an email sent Monday afternoon. He cited declines in print revenue and “lower-than-expected” digital ad revenue, trends that are plaguing news operations across the country. “Because of these financial challenges, today we had to take a series of difficult steps to reshape the Richmond Times-Dispatch,” Silvestri wrote.
He wrote later, “We regret having to part with so many employees whose years of service and contributions to our company are greatly appreciated. It’s been a stressful day saying goodbye. The job reductions that impact every department are no one’s fault, but rather a result of the disappearances of traditional sources of revenue.”
The Richmond layoffs were apart of companywide cuts made by Berkshire-Hathaway Media Group, which owns the Times-Dispatch. BH Media Group laid off 289 people, including 108 vacant positions across the country, according to an email sent from the company’s president and CEO, Terry Kroeger. That represents about 6 percent of the company's workforce. The layoffs leave the Times-Dispatch with 360 full-time employees, according to Silvestri’s memo, of which about 90 work in the newsroom.
The 13 newsroom staffers let go were: features editor Pauline Clay, who has worked at the newspaper since 1987; assistant sports editor Bob Flynn, who has worked at the newspaper since 1999; assistant business editor Greg Shriver; photographer Kevin Morley, who has worked for the newspaper since 1984; reporter Katherine Calos, who began working for the Richmond News-Leader in 1974 and joined the RTD after the two newsrooms merged in 1992; arts and culture writer Markus Schmidt, who has worked for the newspaper since 2013; higher education reporter Karin Kapsidelis, who joined the staff in 1981; breaking news reporter Bryan DeVasher, who joined the staff in 2007; copy editors Kimberly Clarke, Ed Newland and Jack Norton; graphic artist John Ownby, who has worked at the paper since 1988; and designer George Banko.
“Today is a sad day, and the weeks ahead will be challenging, for sure,” wrote Paige Mudd, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, in a separate email sent to staffers. “We are saying goodbye to colleagues who have been with us, in some cases, for decades; in other cases, some who were just beginning their careers in journalism. We wish all of them well. And if our revenue improves, we will work to restore positions we’ve lost.”
Additionally, Mudd laid out immediate changes slated for the print newspaper, which she stated in the memo were made to “trim our production costs.” The newspaper will notify readers of the changes with a front page note published in each of this week’s remaining editions, Mudd wrote. Those include:
- Eliminating the daily business section that is published Tuesday through Saturday. Instead, business news will be published in the newspaper's front two sections. The Sunday business section and Monday Metro business sections will remain intact.
- Eliminating the health section, published Mondays, and Life section, published Tuesdays. Instead, a single page of health news will be published in the Metro section on Mondays and some Life stories will be published on Tuesdays, also in the Metro section.
- Combining the Food and Culture sections into a single section published on Wednesdays.
Holly Prestidge, a Times-Dispatch staffer who serves as the president of the newsroom union, wrote in an email sent to colleagues that the union is "alarmed" by the layoffs and the "direction [BH Media Group] appears to be taking the newspaper."
"We call on Warren Buffett and BH Media executives to live up to their stated commitment that the Times-Dispatch be indispensable to the community," Prestidge wrote in the email. "A well-staffed newsroom is essential to meeting that commitment and to fulfilling our role in and obligation to a well-informed and civil society.”
The layoffs come days before the Virginia Press Association is set to host its annual conference and awards banquet. BH Media Group is listed as the "signature event sponsor."
Clarification: A previous version of this story did not list copy editor Kimberly Clarke among the Times-Dispatch staffers who were laid off.