By: E&P Staff
The Roanoke Times will lose one more veteran journalist this afternoon, as Donna Alvis-Banks is set to retire from the paper after spending 20 years as a reporter and features writer. She joins veteran reporter Paul Dellinger and photographer Gene Dalton on the list of veterans who have left the Times in the last year.
“The past couple of years our newsroom has gone through a pretty big transition period,” Managing Editor Michael Stowe told the paper. “Losing Donna, Paul, and Gene in the past year, it’s tough.”
Alvis-Banks arrived at the Times in 1988. A former schoolteacher, she spent her first 15 years at the paper as an editorial assisstant whose days consisted of answering phones, and going through the day’s court cases. In 2003, she was promoted by Stowe, then the Times’ editor, to a position as a features writer.
She specialized in covering tragedy. Beginning in 2005, for example, Alvis-Banks followed the Bryant family of Giles County, Va., in the wake of a Michigan gas explosion that killed six of the family’s nine children. Alvis-Banks followed the family through the months following the accident, including the day in April 2007 when the family welcomed a tenth child.
Later that month, she covered the Virginia Tech shootings, where a crazed gunman killed 32 of his fellow students and Virginia Tech staff before turning the gun on himself. As a result of her coverage, she was invited to speak to journalism students war correspondents about the difficulties and the guidelines of covering the victims of trauma.
“When someone like Donna comes along, she’s a morale booster for everybody else,” Dr. Frank Ochberg, of the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma, told the Times. “I would say she’s as good as it gets.”