— The Daily Progress (@DailyProgress) September 14, 2020
Newsroom jobs eliminated at Free Lance-Star, News & Advance
Cuts follow layoffs at Richmond, Roanoke and Charlottesville papers
Two more Virginia newspapers — The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg and The News & Advance in Lynchburg — have dismissed employees, following newsroom layoffs last week at three other publications owned by Lee Enterprises.
Two editors, a page designer and two circulation clerks have been laid off at The News & Advance. Their jobs were eliminated effective immediately and they will receive severance packages, according to an employee who received the information from a supervisor Monday. After working 16 years at the newspaper, The Free Lance-Star’s digital editor, Dave Ellis, said Monday that he was informed his last day will be Sept. 25. He said he thinks he is the only person to be laid off at his newspaper.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch saw at least five newsroom jobs cut Friday, including a business reporter, a photojournalist, a multimedia content producer and a sports producer that were all part of the bargaining unit of the flagship newspaper’s newsroom union, Richmond Newspaper Professionals Association. The Roanoke Times expects to lose 10 copy editing and page design jobs next month, and The Daily Progress in Charlottesville expects to lose four copy desk jobs in October. According to the Blue Ridge Guild, the Daily Progress’ newsroom union, two people were laid off Friday and their jobs eliminated, including a digital content coordinator.
Although Lee Enterprises declined to comment on the eliminated jobs, including whether the cuts are temporary, pandemic-related measures, the unions at the three papers in Charlottesville, Richmond and Roanoke said they caught wind of the copy desk cuts last month while Roanoke and Charlottesville employees were negotiating their contracts with Lee, which is based in Iowa. The company, which purchased 30 newspapers from BH Media Group in March, has design hubs in Wisconsin and Indiana, where front pages and websites for several Lee papers are designed remotely. The Roanoke Times, The Daily Progress and other Lee newspapers are going to be designed at one of the Midwest hubs, union members have reported.
Lee Enterprises purchased 30 newspapers earlier this year from BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., for $140 million in cash. Lee was previously hired to manage the BH Media newspapers, including those in Virginia.
The company owns the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bristol Herald Courier, The News & Advance in Lynchburg, The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee, The News Virginian in Waynesboro, The Roanoke Times, The Daily Progress and multiple weekly newspapers in Virginia.
Already, one of Lee’s content hubs is handling some social media duties for its Virginia newspapers. On Twitter, several journalists and others noted the ironic timing of a Sunday Daily Progress tweet asking, “What’s your dream job?” posted two days after newsroom layoffs.
Virginia Business Deputy Editor Kate Andrews was a copy editor and staff writer at The Daily Progress from 1999 to 2006.