The New River Current, a tabloid insert in The Roanoke Times — and later a related web site — died on Thursday, September 28, 2011.
In its place, The Times is giving us The Burgs — named for Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
The Burgs will publish in print Thursday through Sunday and online throughout the week.
In many ways, The Burgs is an blog on steroids, but newspapers as a whole are moving more and more into blog-style territory and the Times is no different. The shift to more focus on Blacksburg and Christiansburg leave the outlying areas of The New River Valley feeling more and more like unwanted foster children.
Times editors say they will continue to cover news “of note” in other counties but the focus of The Burgs is clearly Montgomery County, Blacksburg and Christiansburg.
It’s been more than 40 years since I worked as a reporter and photographer for The Roanoke Times. During my time there — 1965-69 — areas outside Roanoke were covered by a couple of state-beat reporters, a series of correspondents in Southwestern Virginia counties and Paul Dellinger — the Wytheville-based reporter whose bureau operated out of the basement of his house.
Dellinger put hundreds of thousands of miles on his car covering county board meetings, city councils and breaking news in Southwestern Virginia. When stories merited extra coverage, reporters would be dispatched from Roanoke. I made more than one long road trip out to Wise or Buchanan County in those days.
But the news business has changed and newspapers like The Times struggle to hold on to an audience in a world of satellite TV news channels and hyperlocal news blogs. Today’s home page of The Burgs features “paparazzi photos” of Blacksburg’s high school homecoming and a spot for readers to upload their favorite photos through Facebook. At a recent Floyd County Board of Supervisors meeting, I saw a Times reporter shoot photos with his Droid phone. I often update this site and some other web sites I work for with my Droid, an iPad or a laptop using Wi-Fi or a wireless modem.
Kinda makes me miss the old days when all we needed to cover the news was a ball-point pen, notebook and a telephone credit card to phone in the story to a rewrite staffer.