A little more than two years ago, former C-VILLE Weekly co-owner Rob Jiranek was named publisher of the Daily Progress. Today, the announcement of a new publisher and Jiranek’s abrupt departure “to pursue other opportunities” caught many at the Progress by surprise.
“I don’t have any comment,” says BH Media Regional Vice President Terry Jamerson when she was reached in Roanoke, where she’s publisher of the Roanoke Times, and asked about how long the management change had been in the works. “I don’t think it would be appropriate.”
Jamerson directed a reporter to the press release on the Progress website, which names Peter Yates, a Woodberry Forest grad like Jiranek, as the new publisher.
Yates started his career at the Progress 33 years ago, and since 2000 has been the editor and general manager of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg. He was also president of the Page Shenandoah Newspaper Corporation. The sale of the family-owned News-Record and the Winchester Star to Ogden Newspapers was announced in March.
Jiranek was a co-owner of C-VILLE from 1995 to 2006. He left for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where he was vice president of sales and strategic planning. There, he introduced monetization of content in 2007, but sponsorships for news seemed to fall through after editors objected and other media outlets reported on the breaching of the traditionally impermeable wall between editorial and advertising.
Earlier this year at the Progress, the wall between advertising and news came down—literally—at its Rio Road office.
Jiranek, like most newspaper publishers, was dealing with dwindling circulation, which had dropped from 21,274 in 2012 to 14,693 in 2016. Last year, the Progress, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s BH Media, laid off three employees.
It’s also seen three editors during Jiranek’s brief tenure. Nick Mathews, who also left to pursue other opportunities, served as editor for 14 months through July 2016 and is now FOIA officer at UVA. He was succeeded by Wes Hester, who lasted about as long and also went to UVA as its deputy spokesperson. Aaron Richardson was named editor in January.