Assailed by the Times-Dispatch
As the author of the Style Weekly piece described in AJR's article about the Richmond Times-Dispatch (February/ March), I read "Culture Clash" with interest. It was very well done by Lori Robertson, and I'm glad to hear the company has loosened its restrictions on employee speech. That is a simple decision that will help more than a few of the issues there.
Concerning Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri's criticism of my article, I'd be curious to hear him say what it is, other than offering vague descriptions of "bad journalism." His public criticism is insulting and self-serving, which is surprising in a man I respect in many ways.
Despite the impression he attempts to convey, he has never managed to identify a single error in that article. In fact, given ample time to list his complaints, Silvestri requested only one clarification, which ran. (I had written that a section was "on the chopping block," meaning under review for cancellation; he said some readers thought that meant the section was scheduled for cancellation, and I agreed with that reading.) But ever since, he's badmouthed me and that piece without ever telling me why. Most people assume it's because he, his editor and the paper's leadership came across badly in it.
I wrote the article in a state of frustration and astonishment, which I tried to convey, that a lot of people in news are now more concerned with business problems than with journalism and open discussion. The heartfelt reaction to the article from people around the country told me I was hardly alone in my dismay.
The process of researching and writing that piece left me so disheartened that I have not written a single article since. And I'm a journalist who has worked hard for a long time; I've won more than 18 statewide and national news writing awards as a result. No more. For now I'll stick to teaching college students and raising my kids. They're more honest than the pros.