Dear Friends,

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the new Foothills Forum newsletter for supporters and friends.

Foothills Forum

In the emerging world of nonprofit journalism, Foothills is widely admired, producing award-winning stories. Foothills’ publishing partner is The Rappahannock News which runs Foothills stories, articles that can take weeks – even months – to research and write. Each year, Foothills holds a strategic planning retreat where board members, our journalists and others set goals for the coming year. At this year’s gathering in March, we’ll focus on how to sustain and expand our award-winning journalism.  Foothills’ coverage of Rappahannock is made possible by financial support from you. Thank you.

From Foothills Forum’s New Chair, Andy Alexander

The unfortunate reality is that more than 2,100 newspapers – many in rural communities – have closed since 2004. Roughly 300 disappeared between 2018 and the start of the pandemic. And since then, another 100 have vanished. Throughout the United States, more than 200 counties no longer have a newspaper.
Research shows that when a community becomes a “news desert,” voter participation declines and civic engagement plummets. Government expenditures typically increase because journalists are not there to report on spending proposals that need public debate. And when trusted local news sources disappear, polarization increases because citizens turn to partisan, ideological outlets.

That’s why Foothills is important. We’re nonpartisan and journalistically independent. Our stories appear regularly in the Rappahannock News, whose small and overworked staff is challenged to do reporting that can require exhaustive research. Our mission: produce in-depth journalism that helps citizens and leaders make well-informed decisions that are best for our community.

Foothills Reporter Profile: Tim Carrington

Among Foothills reporters, Tim’s background has made him uniquely suited to tackle stories on county budget and development issues. In his career, he wrote for The Wall Street Journal from New York, London, and Washington. At the World Bank, he launched a training program in economics journalism for reporters and editors in Africa and the former Soviet Union. Subsequently, he served as senior communications officer for the World Bank’s Africa Region.
He is author of several books: The Year They Sold Wall Street and The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development. His writing on development issues appeared in The Globalist, World Paper, and Enterprise Africa.
Tim is also a painter, having studied art at the University of Virginia, and at the Institute Allende in Mexico. He has shown his work in group shows in Washington and Keene Valley New York and in one-man shows in Bethesda. Md, and Richmond. His studio was part of the Rappahannock Fall Art Tour in 2021.

Chair Emeritus Larry “Bud” Meyer

At the final board meeting of 2021, Foothills’ co-founder and chair Bud Meyer stepped away from the board, taking a year off “for good behavior,” in his words. The move enabled Andy Alexander to step in as board chair. Meyer became chair emeritus. Under Bud’s leadership, Foothills grew from a mere idea to a robust nonprofit news organization with journalists, a board of directors, and a small staff.

Prior to launching Foothills, Bud was Vice President and Secretary of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Earlier, he spent two decades in Florida print journalism, the last four years as executive assistant to the publisher of The Miami Herald.  Foothills is indeed fortunate to have benefitted from Bud’s leadership and his continuing good counsel.

“Citizen Journalism 101”

Last Fall, Foothills launched a journalism training project in conjunction with the Rapp Center for Education on journalism. With Andy Alexander and Bud Meyer as lecturers, the course covered the nuts and bolts of writing for publication from writing itself to identifying newsworthy topics, interview techniques and more. Class members included Michael McLeod who is working on a story about local dog sports and Ike Parrish, now a full-time reporter in Orange County.

Rappahannock County Public School (RCPS) Essay Contest

For a third year, RCPS students from the high school and middle school were invited to write essays in a contest sponsored by Foothills Forum and the Rappahannock News. A panel of six judges led by Edie Tatel, with current and retired teachers Sheila Lamb, Julie Ruth and Lilo Wolfe and writers Ann Crittenden and Tim Carrington, reviewed more than fifty submissions and chose first, second and third place winners from each school.

The winners will receive modest cash prizes from Foothills. Their essays will be published in the Rappahannock News after students meet with Julia Shanahan—a News reporter whose position is partially underwritten by Foothills as part of the national Report for America program.

NewsMatch:  A Boon for Foothills

Through the great generosity of our backers, Foothills enjoyed a very successful end-of-the-year fundraising push.

NewsMatch, a program of the Institute for Nonprofit News, enables community news organizations to match gifts from individuals, up to a combined total of $14,000, with funding from national foundations.  Foothills met and exceeded that target, which increases significantly our capacity to produce independent, unbiased news on our county.  We thank all of our financial supporters!

Stories We’re Working On

Property Reassessments – Recent property tax reassessments spiked due to surging home values. How many reassessments were successfully challenged?
Reporter: Tim Carrington.

Emergency Services – The county’s seven volunteer Fire and Rescue companies face increasing challenges.
Reporter: Randy Rieland

Gay Rappahannock – The county’s gay population is quietly growing in size and influence.
Reporter: Andy Alexander.

Young Rappahannock – A worrisome trend: many young people leave the county. But a surprising number stay or return. Who are they? And what attracts them?
Reporter: Bob Hurley.

Childhood Cancer – The leading cause of death among kids under 19. Rappahannock and surrounding counties aren’t spared.
Reporter: Randy Rieland

Calendar – 2022
April 29: Board of Directors meeting
July 29: Board of Directors meeting
September 30: Annual Meeting
November 18: Board of Directors meeting
All meetings are open to the public.