Owned by Alden Global Capital, alt weekly newspaper will end with Sept. 8 issue
After close to 39 years, the Richmond-based alternative weekly newspaper Style Weekly will shut down this week, Editor-in-Chief Brent Baldwin posted on Style’s Facebook page Tuesday.
The publication’s closing came three years after Norfolk-based Landmark Communications Inc. sold its Virginia newspapers — The Virginian-Pilot, Inside Business and Style Weekly — and their associated businesses for $34 million to Tribune Publishing Co. (then known as Tronc Inc.), which already owned the Daily Press in Newport News, as well as the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg and the Tidewater Review in West Point.
This May, Tribune Publishing was purchased by hedge fund Alden Global Capital in a $633 million deal that has led to the elimination of more than 250 full-time editorial positions through buyouts offered two days after the finalization of the deal, including at the Pilot and the Daily Press.
Even before Alden’s purchase, Tribune Publishing employment fell by 30%, from 4,114 employees at the end of 2019 to 2,865 at the end of 2020, according to a Chicago Tribune story.
The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press have decreased their newsroom staffs from 101 full-time employees to 36 workers since September 2018, according to the NewsGuild union. Both newspapers’ offices closed last year, with staff working remotely, and the Pilot’s Brambleton Avenue office in Norfolk, its home for 82 years, was sold to residential developers. Style Weekly, too, closed its office in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood in 2020, and its full-time staff had dwindled to only four full-time staffers working remotely as of April.
Baldwin’s Facebook message announcing the shutdown was short and did not refer to Alden: “Note from the Editor-in-Chief: Style Weekly will cease publishing after the Sept. 8 edition. We thank our talented staff for their award-winning efforts and our loyal readers for their support. Thank you, Richmond.”
Started as a monthly publication in November 1982, Style later became a free weekly paper covering Richmond beginning in 1984 with its sale to Landmark Communications. An alternative to the two daily newspapers — the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the now-defunct Richmond News Leader — Style introduced personal ads, an extensive events calendar, restaurant reviews and annual arts previews to the city, founding publisher and editor Lorna Wyckoff said in an interview Tuesday with Virginia Business. She started the publication in 1982 at her kitchen table. The first issue was a 16-page paper covering the city’s West End, with a very ’80s-appropriate aerobics cover model.
“It is sad, but I’m also proud of our years and proud of what it became,” said Wyckoff, who remained at the weekly through 1992, when it employed 30 or 40 full-time and part-time staffers and ran issues of about 70 or 80 pages. Still, she noted, “it’s kind of an evolution. I think all of us in media have seen this coming. When you have so many changes of ownership in a short period of time, as they have, I think it’s hard to find your way.”
Style also was the home of the popular “You’re Very Richmond If” and “Best of Richmond” features, and it garnered awards and praise for its feature profiles, news photography and news coverage, even as its full-time staff shrank in recent years. In April, Style won 32 Virginia Press Association News and Advertising Contest awards for its work in 2020, including a best-in-show photography award won by staff photographer Scott Elmquist.
“The real joy is in continuing the jobs we love and serving the community with useful, insightful, locally produced stories,” Baldwin wrote in April, noting the difficulty Style had producing the publication during the COVID-19 pandemic with a small staff. “Doing that takes serious, around-the-clock commitment and determination — not to mention unselfish attitudes focused on the team — in order to steer a small alt. weekly into its 40th year.”
Editor’s Note: Virginia Business Associate Publisher Lori Collier Waran, Editor Richard Foster, Art Director Joel Smith, Graphic Designer Kira Jenkins and Account Manager Toni McCracken all previously worked at Style Weekly.