Roanoke Times editor Carole Tarrant’s From the Newsroom column today:
Beginning with tomorrow’s paper, you will see some changes in the makeup of your Monday-to-Saturday Roanoke Times.
As you might expect, these changes come about as our business joins many others in adjusting to the country’s weakening economy.
In an effort to conserve newsprint – the wood pulp most of you are reading this on – we are combining some sections of the newspaper into the front news section. Most notably, the Virginia and Business sections will fold into the front news section.
I’ll take a few minutes below to explain more of the changes in detail. But before I do, I want to emphasize a few things.
The first is we are a strong and profitable company whose dedication to serving the community remains unmoved. While our business, like many others these days, is challenged, our audience, is, in fact, strong. That’s because while wood pulp carries our words to some people, we are reaching an expanding audience of readers every day who get our content on their computer or mobile device from our Web site, roanoke.com.
The second is we don’t expect this reformatting of the paper to result in a considerable reduction in the news we deliver, particularly local news. We realize that many of you look to us, foremost, for our daily community coverage. We appreciate that you value the work of our 100-plus journalists who report on and explain the significance of news happening in Southwest Virginia.
Yes, we realize the changes you’ll see Monday will take some getting used to. But we’re asking for your patience during a time when businesses need to take prudent, proactive measures to ensure their future health.
Again, these changes do not affect your Sunday paper. That remains our largest publication of the week, the one where we broaden our coverage and write stories you can settle in with at a leisurely weekend pace.
Here’s what will be different Mondays through Saturdays, beginning tomorrow:
- Content from the Virginia section moves to the front news section. This includes local and wire reports from our region, as well as the opinion/commentary pages and obituary notices.
- On Tuesdays and Fridays, opinion/commentary will run as one page (as it now does on Saturdays) instead of two pages.
- Business coverage, which had run on the back of the Sports section, moves inside the front news section. We expect this to please readers who have asked us to give business news more prominence.
- The weather map moves to Page A-2.
- Lottery numbers, formerly on Page A-2, now will run on the first page labeled “Virginia” inside the consolidated front section.
- The Sports and Classifieds sections will combine on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (as they now are on Mondays).
- To help guide you through the larger front section, we have expanded the index at the bottom of Page A-1. It includes a color-coded key to specific content within the section, such as Virginia and Nation & World.
Last week, we previewed these changes with our readership panel, a group of nearly 700 people who have volunteered to offer feedback via a weekly e-mail survey.
About 250 panelists commented on the changes, and the dominant majority said they could adapt – some easily, some given a little time – to the new format.
Here’s a sampling of the feedback:
- “I think the changes are obvious, but I will need time to get used to [them]. Everyone has the sections that they prefer to read. I’ll just have to read the paper differently.”
- “We are all making adjustments due to the times, so I don’t think these changes will make any difference in reading the news.”
- “I think I will like the changes. Especially the business section moved off the sports part. I commend the changes, anything to save time, paper and money. I like the compact nature of what you are doing. If you ask me, it is a welcome change!”
- “My impression is that I will get less local news than previously. Local news and opinion are important features. There are a lot of online sources for national news, so if local news is reduced, I might not need to buy a local paper.”
- “If these changes are being made to save money I am not happy. I think that The Roanoke Times has changed too much too many times lately. I do not feel that these changes have made the publication better.”
- “The reformatting doesn’t bother me so much as long as the content is informative, educational and honest. Stay true to your business and you could print news on toilet paper in block letters and maintain customers.”
If you’d like to join our reader feedback panel, go to www.roanoke.com/panel.