VPM Media Corp. purchases Style Weekly
Richmond weekly paper was shut down by owner in September
VPM Media Corp., the parent company of Richmond-based VPM public television and radio stations, announced Thursday it has acquired Style Weekly, the Richmond publication that was closed down in September by its owner, Alden Global Capital, after nearly 39 years in print.
Financial terms were not disclosed, and a VPM spokesperson said they could not say which former Style employees would return to the publication. According to VPM’s announcement, in coming weeks, VPM will resume publication of arts and culture features and the local events calendar on StyleWeekly.com and its Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts while evaluating the future of the print publication.
VPM News Director Elliott Robinson said in a tweet that VPM will contract with two previous Style Weekly employees, and the editorial staff will report to VPM News leadership. At the time of Style’s shutdown, only four staffers were employed, and it had given up its office in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood.
Steve Humble, VPM’s chief content officer, said Thursday in an interview that the purchase was funded by the Virginia Foundation for Public Media, an endowment started in 2018 with $158.6 million from a 2017 auction sale of the corporation’s spectrum channels, which yielded $181.9 million.
The purchase of Style Weekly from Alden includes all trademarks and digital property, including 37,000 articles and the StyleWeekly.com website, Humble added. VPM is in talks now with past Style employees about working either full-time or as contractors. For the time being, Style will exist on its former website, but VPM will provide marketing, digital and sales support. Over the next six to nine months, Humble added, VPM will examine whether to keep Style relatively independent or “integrate a bit more with VPM,” as well as deciding whether to revive the print version of Style.
Humble said that the reason the public media corporation decided to make the purchase was to boost its own arts and culture coverage. “We can build this from scratch, but it would probably take several years for us to build the kind of following Style has,” he said, noting that VPM is growing its own local coverage, including a Virginia-focused TV news show launching next year.
“This acquisition not only represents a strategic opportunity for VPM, but it is also a chance for nonprofit media to innovate and experiment with new business models that may define the future of local journalism,” VPM President and CEO Jayme Swain said in a statement.
Style posted its own announcement Thursday on Twitter: “With the support of VPM and its talented staff, we’re ready to get back to work. You should start seeing stories roll out on our website and social media channels around mid-December.”
Style was sold in 2018 by Norfolk-based Landmark Communications Inc. to Tribune Publishing Co. (then known as Tronc Inc.), along with The Virginian-Pilot and Inside Business, for $34 million. In May, Tribune Publishing was purchased by hedge fund Alden Global Capital in a $633 million deal. In September, Style’s then-editor-in-chief, Brent Baldwin, announced on Facebook that the Sept. 8 issue of Style, already on stands, would be its last edition. Started in 1982 as a monthly publication, Style later was a free weekly paper covering Richmond beginning in 1984 with its sale to Landmark.
It was known as an alternative to Richmond’s two daily newspapers — the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the now-defunct Richmond News Leader — and focused on the city’s food, arts and entertainment scenes. In subsequent years, Style also developed a strong reputation for photo journalism and hard news stories, as well as the popular “You’re Very Richmond If” and “Best of Richmond” features. The Valentine museum acquired Style’s photograph archives from its founding in 1982 to 2016, and Humble said VPM will likely work with the Richmond history museum on projects.
“For nearly 40 years, Style Weekly has been an integral part of Richmond’s culture,” Humble said in a statement. “In the next six to eight months, we will be taking time to listen to readers as we develop a long-term strategy and determine how Style Weekly can best serve the community.”
VPM Media Corp., formerly known as the Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp., had $38.4 million in assets as of June 30, 2020, according to financial statements posted online. It owns television and radio stations affiliated with PBS and NPR across Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley.
Editor’s Note: Virginia Business Associate Publisher Lori Collier Waran, Editor Richard Foster, Art Director Joel Smith, Graphic Designer Kira Jenkins and Account Manager Toni McCracken all previously worked at Style Weekly.