Roanoke Times to lay off 20 percent of unionized newsroom staff

Roanoke Times to lay off 20 percent of unionized newsroom staff
The Roanoke Times (Source: WDBJ)

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke Times will lay off ten employees in October, 20 percent of its unionized newsroom staff.

The cuts are part of owner Lee Enterprises’ plan to consolidate newspaper design work in the Midwest, according to the Timesland Guild, a group of unionized Times employees.

Lee told members of the Timesland News Guild bargaining committee Thursday afternoon the company had rejected the union’s proposal to establish a hub in Roanoke that would keep design work on-site.

The elimination of the ten copy editing and design jobs amounts to nearly 20 percent of the newsroom’s unionized workforce, according to the guild, including three full-time and seven part-time positions.

Management began notifying affected employees Thursday afternoon.

“I am sending this email to let you know your position is being eliminated effective close of business Friday, October 23, 2020,” it read. “As you know, this is a corporate restructuring that involves the Lee Design Center, and in no way is a reflection of the work you have done here at The Roanoke Times.”

“This is a truly sad day for The Roanoke Times and for Southwest Virginia,” said Tonia Moxley, chairwoman of the Timesland News Guild, a unit of The Washington-Baltimore News Guild (NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America). “Despite an opportunity to embrace and grow in Virginia, Lee Enterprises has chosen to outsource our journalism jobs to the Midwest. I’m heartbroken because our newsroom is losing so much homegrown and amazing talent, but it’s really a loss for the region and the state. On behalf of the guild, I want to thank all our supporters, including state senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle, dozens of local leaders and hundreds of readers for advocating for your local news coverage.”

The guild plans to bargain with the company over terms of the layoffs.

Starting in October, the pages of The Roanoke Times no longer will be produced in Roanoke, according to the guild.

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