VCU grad becomes Richmond Times-Dispatch’s first female opinions editor

Pamela Stallsmith will start in her new role this month. Photo courtesy of VCU.

Naomi Ghahrai, Contributing Writer
Emma North, Contributing Writer

A VCU graduate will be the next opinions editor for Richmond Times-Dispatch, becoming the first woman to ever hold the position.

RTD announced Pamela Stallsmith will replace Editorial Pages Editor Bob Rayner, who will retire in March. Stallsmith currently serves as the director of communications for the VCU Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and will start her position with RTD Feb. 18. She worked as a beat reporter on state politics for the RTD for 19 years, from 1988 to 2007.

“We are fortunate to have Pam rejoin us at a time when informed, knowledge-based opinion has never been more in demand,” said Tom Silvestri, RTD president and publisher in the paper’s announcement.

The opinion section of the historic paper — which has operated under its current name for more than a century — has previously come under scrutiny for what some have described as insensitive content, including an editorial cartoon it ran last year that mocked the separation of families at the southern border. Bill Oglesby, a journalism professor at VCU, said the new hire could be a chance for the RTD to abate its content.

“Many people have felt the RTD opinions page has been unrepresentative of the people of this area for most of its existence,” Oglesby said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to win back some of those readers with a more moderate voice.”

Stallsmith began her career in 1988 at Lynchburg’s The News & Daily Advance. In her extensive reporting career, she has won nearly 100 national and state awards in communications and writing.

Stallsmith studied communication and politics at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, which became Randolph College in 2007. She then received a master’s degree in mass communications from VCU and a mini-MBA certificate from University of Richmond.

The fact that Stallsmith is the first female opinions editor at Richmond Times Dispatch reflects the gender disparity in American journalism. Women constituted more than two-thirds of graduates with degrees in journalism or mass communications, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the University of Georgia. However, in 2018, women made up about 40 percent of newsrooms, according to the American Society of News Editors, which surveys newsroom diversity. Women held top-three editor positions in 63 percent of newsrooms in 2015, according to ASNE.

“Pam is a consummate writer, reporter and communications professional,” said June Nicholson, a VCU journalism professor. “I feel sure she will bring to her new role as head of the [RTD] opinion section the same commitment to truth and the highest standards of journalism and communications that she has shown throughout her career.”

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