The Times-Dispatch Done Me Dirty

Part 2: The End of the Whining As We Know It

Oh no, here I go again.

Here I go wasting words and valuable World Wide Web space complaining about my former employer. I’m bored and bitter, so you, dear reader, get another rambling tantrum about unfairness, narrow vision and the ham-handedness of corporate media culture. Lucky you.

At least, that’s what I planned on.

But something won’t let me go forward. For some reason I haven’t the piss nor the vinegar. Could it be that my conscience won’t let me talk smack? Or do I detect the faint odor of guilt?

I was all set with graphs and pie charts, spurred on by the fresh data of Media General’s 70% decline in profits. I was ready to make my case. But as I was rehearsing my spiel in front of the bedroom mirror, I got spooked.

I saw something that made me change my mind.

It was the people. I was seeing the folks who just show up every day to do their job. The pictures came one after another, in slow motion and soft focus. I saw reporters laughing and slapping each other on the back. Editors raised coffee mugs in mock toasts and rolled back in their desk chairs to pop three-pointers into the trash.

I saw them clear as day and asked myself, “What are you doing? Those people are good people. They didn’t do anything to you. They don’t deserve to be roasted on the same spit as those misguided, misleading bureaucrats.”

I should leave them alone. So I will.

To be clear: from here on out, I’m talking about those other assholes.

That’s right, I used the a-word. But I’m allowed to use strong language like that because I’m a grown man. Grown men can swear when they feel like it. That’s just how life works.

You swear when you’re angry or when you need to make a point. Sometimes you swear when you pick up a copy of Brick Weekly and wonder why it’s still around.

Right about now is where I should start tearing into Brick and its fearless corporate overlord who was supposed to have killed the paper by now and launched its replacement, “804-Source.com,” to universal praise. (“We will be greeted as liberators!”) Brick was supposed to keep going, solely to hold its coveted spot at the Hanover press until it was replaced.

Brick had been declared terminal. We were spending too much money, it wasn’t making a profit and the “Surge” wasn’t working. There were closed door meetings and demographic analysis and a new-improved weekly “product” was going to make everything better. How?

By getting the “staff” out there in the “nightlife,” man. To do what? Challenge people to throw darts or light farts or whatever. You know, mix it up. See and be seen. What’s so wrong about 24 picture pages of drunk chicks mashing their faces together and giving the “goat” sign? Nothing, I suppose. There are some people who dig that sort of thing. But not me and that’s why I left.

Or so I thought. By now, I should be curled up by the fireplace with a copy of “804-Source.com” and wondering whether the warm feeling was coming from the flames or the scintillating mix of advertorial and “fun” reader-generated (aka FREE) content.

But Brick is still here and it leaves me with more questions.

Why, during Brick’s first 16 months of life, was its two-person staff discouraged from poaching help from other departments when it now seems to be run by a platoon of full-time graphic designers? Are there less car ads to design?

I told that the Brick name was “no good” and the brand had been “irreversibly damaged” by the Paper Moon ads (which I’d said were a bad idea from the start). So what’s with all this “Team Brick” nonsense and why are the strippers still strutting?

And why would you tell the Brick staff to “keep doing what you’re doing” for 6 months before pulling the plug and then trash-talking all of their work?

I could go on, but I’m starting to feel whiny.

As I mentioned, I don’t really have it in me anymore. I don’t want to spend another minute ticking down my list of grievances or hurling harsh words from behind my virtual fence. I may as well ring and run or give them the finger from a moving car.

Maybe I should just sum things up in a mature and respectful manner and get on with life. I had a conversation yesterday in which the bitterness of former Times-Dispatch employees came up. Apparently, there are many of us around town who are festering, harboring anger and unable to “just let it go.” Why is that?

I have a theory. And I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ll bet that at least some of what I feel is shared by others. We’re disappointed. More than anything else, we feel let down.

I’m not disappointed that I don’t work there anymore. And I’m not even disappointed that the whole reason I quit turned out to be a lie. I just thought that some of the people and some of the company could do better.

We all knew that money makes the world go round, but we hoped that it wasn’t as true with the news. We hoped that the cart didn’t pull the horse. We wanted to matter to more than the bottom line.

But it is. It does. And we don’t.

And that’s all I want to say about that.

Good night. Good luck. Consider yourself mashed.

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Pete Humes

Pete Humes is a husband, father and writer who lives in Richmond’s North Side. He enjoys coffee and owns way too many records.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. From my perspective, there were certainly harbingers of all of this from early on.

  2. Lea Setegn on said:

    Thanks for saying what all of us former T-D newsroom folks are feeling. Well done!

  3. Scott Burger on said:

    Its too bad you and Sarvay did not help grow Throttle….but hey, I know, you guys had to follow your own muse (and employment). Its all ancient history now and I don’t want to sound whiny. I am very thankful for RVAnews.com, RVA Magazine, and WRIR.

    I do think there is still an opportunity for other INDEPENDENT alternative media.
    I would love to see someone start a monthly soy newsprint magazine that combined the best elements of predecessors- Throttle’s homegrown/grassroots approach and offbeat subject matter, Catharsis/Grip’s love of music, Caffine’s writing, Punchline’s comics/humor, Wadi’s libertarian irreverence, and 64’s regional circulation along the I-64 corridor. I could go on (as I have left out about a dozen other predecessors) but you get the idea.

  4. Scott and friends –

    Please check out URGE, our newly launched magazine devoted to promoting the arts and connecting you to the people behind the galleries, boutiques, restaurants and music in our region. URGE gives local consumers an avenue to the best shops, venues and special events.

    URGE is a free 9×12, full color, quarterly magazine set to launch March 17th. We hope this will fill some of the void within the Richmond ‘culture’ scene.

    dp

  5. If there could be a weekly paper with the insight , love, intellect,bitterness, and the well rounded thoughts that come from the typing didgits of humes and sarvay ,,,, i would surely be happy as a fish in kepone.
    Thanks john and pete ed trask

  6. Pingback: The804.com–Richmond VA Real Estate Blog » That’s One Dysfunctional Media General Family

  7. There was a better weekly paper. Let’s see… what was it called? Oh yeah.. Punchline. Yes, I went there.

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