A weekly RT-D news meeting. (Photo by Jay Paul)
Last November, the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s longest tenured reporter, Bill McKelway, called it a career after 45 years with the daily newspaper. Rex Springston, a T-D staffer of 35 years, retired soon after. Another 40-plus-year veteran, Randy Hallman, left the newspaper in February.
With the departures, the newspaper lost decades of know-how, source relationships and institutional memory, says Paige Mudd, the Times-Dispatch’s editor. But, she adds, they also freed up the newspaper to retool its staff with a new crop of reporters.
“We see it as an opportunity for a fresh start on some of those beats,” Mudd says. “And I know those guys were energized to see the new class of people coming into our newsroom.”
That new class features a slew of 20- and 30-somethings, many of whom cut their teeth covering Charlottesville or Hampton Roads. Among the hires are Ali Rockett, on the cops and courts beat; Elliott Robinson, covering Henrico County; Debbie Truong, covering Hanover, and Sarah Kleiner and Robert Zullo on the enterprise reporting team. Zullo returned to the T-D this year after nearly two and half years at the Pitttsburgh Post-Gazette.
The newspaper’s City Hall team is also anchored by two recent hires: Ned Oliver, formerly of Style Weekly, and K. Burnell Evans, whom the Virginia Press Association named last year as the state’s top young journalist. The pair have spearheaded coverage of the ongoing investigation into Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ administration.
The “new wave of talent,” as Mudd calls it, reminds her of when the newspaper hired several young reporters around 2000. She was one of them.
Now the youngest editor in the newspaper’s history, Mudd has sought reporters who will bolster the organization’s digital chops. That means writing faster and more often to feed the insatiable appetite for fresh content online.
“It’s just sort of a power team we have out there now,” Mudd says. “There’s a real great energy and buzz in the newsroom.”