The Rappahannock News once again firmly established its presence in Short Pump last weekend at the annual conference of the Virginia Press Association (VPA).

For the second year in a row, the News was recognized with a prestigious “Best in Show” honor — this time for Non-Daily writing among all weeklies — for the 2017 Foothills Forum three-part series “A Troubling Diagnosis” on rural health care challenges in Rappahannock County. The series won recognition in the in-depth and investigative reporting category for weekly newspapers. The Foothills/News collaborators won that category in 2016.

The citation noted the role played by Randy Rieland, Foothill’s lead researcher/reporter.  Others cited were News publisher Dennis Brack, Editor John McCaslin, information graphics contributor Laura Stanton, Foothills chair Bud Meyer and photographer Luke Christopher. The previous “Best in Show” was for information graphics developed for 2016 Foothills/News collaborations.

McCaslin won first place for breaking news photography for “Against the Inferno” — his coverage of a massive fire at a nearby plant in Boston.

The VPA conference also featured a well-attended, hour-long panel and Q/A session jointly presented by the News and Foothills Forum on the unique partnership and how it could be a model to produce in-depth, explanatory journalism in other communities. That panel was led by Brack, Rieland and Andy Alexander, Foothills’ Journalism/Research Committee co-chair.

That’s the straightforward, facts-only part of this update. Here’s the opinionated, biased part:

We at Foothills are grateful for the continuing community support that makes this fruitful partnership work. We’re grateful for the veteran journalists at the helm of the News who make our collaboration work.

VPA sets high bars in its annual awards competition, and to have one of the smallest weeklies in Virginia (and its partners) earn “Best in Show” recognition two years running in two separate categories suggests our approach merits both attention AND readership.