In this space yesterday, I wrote that a fourth-quarter profit at the ProJo's parent company - Dallas-based A.H. Belo - suggested some stability for the paper, at least in the short term. But I also suggested that readers shouldn't expect an army of new reporters and editors at the depleted papers.
Now, the ProJo has posted a job for a features reporter covering pop culture, television, health and fitness, and the like. Is this a sign that a growing newsroom could, in fact, be in the offing? Not exactly. This is a position, union officials say, pulled from the sports department, which has lost a number of reporters of late; there is no net growth in the reporting staff.
Still, for a paper that might have left the vacancy unfilled a few months ago, this is good news.
John Hill, a reporter who is president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, says he is not surprised the paper is hiring in features given that the top brass seems poised to expand the department's on-line presence.
A high school sports initiative, a few years ago, marked the ProJo's first foray into a more robust web operation. And since then, the paper has made a strong push to get news on line, as it happens. Features, Hill says, is next. And he says the move makes sense - pop culture, movies, and food may be the best way to attract younger readers to the web site.
Hill said the newspaper's top editors, who have traditionally made changes without much input from the rank-and-file, solicited staff opinion on the features web project in a series of meetings over the last few weeks.
But it was not always clear that features would get the new reporter. Sources say editors were looking, first, to add a news reporter.