It’s been a good week for those engaged in local news in Rappahannock County.
There’s nothing like a dose of participation and a little well-deserved recognition.
On Thursday, three Foothills Forum directors attended a Washington Post/Knight Foundation Live event at the Post: “Saving Local News.” The fast-paced event in front of a packed house brought high-profile journalists, members of Congress, funders, journalism nonprofits and entrepreneurs together to weigh in on the state of local news. Knight (my past employer) has recently infused the movement with $300 million in support, including major funding for the $50 million American Journalism Project.
Tac Tacelosky, Alexander Neil-Dore and I saw fellow travelers from close by — Bo Jones, chair of the new Piedmont Journalism Foundation; Catherine Nelson, publisher of PJF’s partner The Fauquier Times; and Uriah Kiser, publisher of the Potomac Local News website in Prince William.
While the Post/Knight event didn’t drill down to the truly local level served here by The Rappahannock News and the Times, the gathering nonetheless reinforced the need to value and support local news in our democracy. Lord knows it needs it; some 1,800 newspapers have closed in the U.S. since 2004, according to research by Penelope Muse Abernathy of the University of North Carolina. Not to mention the bogus and destructive blather about “fake news” and “failing” mainstream media (The Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are doing quite well, thank you.)
On Saturday, I was privileged to join Rappahannock News publisher Dennis Brack and editor John McCaslin in Norfolk for the annual awards banquet of the Virginia Press Association. John’s breaking news photo of a Sperryville fire scene earned Best in Show honors (way to go, John!, for placing first in THREE categories). The Best in Show was a capper; The News and its partner Foothills Forum garnered 14 total awards.
For the third year in a row, a Foothills/Rapp News project won first place in the in-depth/investigative news category, this one for “Work in Progress” — the 2018 series on the Rappahannock economy. The project “Going Nowhere” took second place in that category, and Foothills/News projects won three other prizes for information graphics and page design. Kudos to the remarkably consistent Randy Rieland and my fellow team members: Tim Carrington, Sara Schonhardt, Dennis Brack, Laura Stanton, Luke Christopher.
(Congrats, too, to Charlottesville Tomorrow for its 16 awards).
Five years into what’s now a proven model of community support for award-winning and effective journalism, here’s the truth: We’re showing how local journalism can thrive. We’re fortunate to have John McCaslin leading the way at our weekly, and we’re fortunate, too, that the community supports Foothills Forum’s efforts to provide detailed, explanatory journalism on local issues.
When you see John and Dennis and Luke next, congratulate them.. And if you run into a Foothills Forum person, congratulate them, too.
But don’t stop there. Keep buying and reading The Rappahannock News. And join the community of supporters who keep Foothills Forum on the job, researching and reporting on the critical matters affecting our county,