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Times-Dispatch Considers "New Form of Journalism"

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It seems that the Richmond Times-Dispatch thinks local news outlets — including itself — have failed to provide the kind of journalism that Richmond needs.

The T-D, owned by Media General, recently posted a help-wanted ad for an "Alternative Weekly Coordinator," saying it wants to develop the kind of journalism that's "sorely needed and long overdue" in the Richmond area.

What kind is that?

"Not going to give you much elaboration there," says Frazier Millner, Times-Dispatch promotion manager, speaking for President and Publisher Thomas A. Silvestri. But Millner adds that the T-D is seeking "new ideas," "fresh approaches" and "new energy."

In the help-wanted ad, which is no longer online, the T-D says it's exploring the launch of what it calls a "downtown suburban alternative newsweekly" (it's unclear whether that means downtown-style suburban or suburban-style downtown).

Forget thinking "outside the box," reads the ad: "We're looking for someone who will rip the box into little pieces, burn the remnants, bury the ashes and give birth to a whole new form of journalism in Richmond."

Fire seems to be the metaphor du jour for T-D officials. Silvestri hired Glenn Proctor, formerly associate editor at The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., as the Richmond daily's executive editor in October, calling him "a firebrand on behalf of excellence in journalism."

Into his sixth month on the job, Proctor, a Marine Corps veteran, has some members of the editorial staff popping Rolaids about potential changes, say people familiar with the scene at the T-D newsroom.

Perhaps Silvestri wants to start an alternative weekly to shake up his daily from the outside, too.

Or not. Despite the help-wanted ad, Millner says there are no firm plans to start an alt weekly: "We're looking at a lot of things in very different genres." It's also unclear whether an alt weekly would be a news or advertising product. "We don't exactly know where it's going to live," she says.

Traditionally, alternative weeklies are fiery competitors to a market's mainstream news providers and are independent from the market's media conglomerates, according to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (of which Style Weekly is a member).

Local alts include Style, whose parent company is Norfolk-based Landmark Communications, the Richmond Free Press, the free monthly Wadi and the monthly RVA Magazine, which costs $30 for a year's subscription.

City sidewalks have also seen the likes of the now-defunct Richmond Mercury, The Richmond State and Punchline.

Conveniently, Punchline's former editor, Pete Humes, now works in the T-D's Flair department. He did not return a call by press time asking whether he'd applied for the alt-weekly job, which Millner says is unfilled.

According to the ad for an alt-weekly coordinator, candidates need to produce an "attention-grabbing weekly news product" and bring the ability to think visually and work well with freelancers "on a tight timeframe and with an entrepreneur's budget."

Oh, and they must "think like an urban millennial." S

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