NewsMatch:  The time is now!

We have intentionally held our October newsletter to the last minute to properly announce the start of NewsMatch 2020!

For two months — from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 – donors to Foothills Forum will see their individual contributions, up to $5,000, matched 1:1 by a consortium of national journalism funders, including the Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation and others organized by the charitable Institute for Nonprofit News (INN). That means donations to Foothills of $5,000 or less will be matched by the same amount from NewsMatch.

Now is the ideal time to give to Foothills Forum.  Thank you!

Protecting Paradise: A Special Report

On Oct. 29, Foothills Forum and the Rappahannock News unveiled the first in a four-part series on the county’s precious, pristine environment. Introducing Protecting Paradise: A Special Report, reporter Randy Rieland writes that “for decades … Rappahannock’s de facto mission statement” has included protecting the overall viewshed of the county, its mountains and scenic ridgetops, ground and surface waters, and its agricultural land and open spaces. “There’s no indication it will change any time soon,” he states, “but the challenge of protecting all of the above is intensifying due to an assortment of real and possible threats.”

Coming installments in the series will focus on preserving a rural landscape and a robust rural economy (Nov. 11), the county’s water and soil quality (Nov. 25); and how Rappahannock deals with challenges including climate change and invasive species. (Dec. 9).

Where do we go from here?

In the mean time, Rappahannock County’s elected and appointed officials are in the midst of the drawn-out process of determining the county’s long-term direction.  At issue is the revision (the first in a decade or more) of the county’s comprehensive plan, a document required by Virginia law that describes “where are we; where do we go from here; what do we become.” Given the importance of these deliberations, Foothills Forum and the Rappahannock News continue close coverage of the comp plan.
In an Oct. 1 article, Sara Schonhardt and Report for America corps member Rachel Needham anticipated a coming Board of Supervisors public hearing on the plan, citing subjects addressed in the plan, including broadband coverage, villages’ tolerance for growth, and housing availability. A week later Needham reported that nearly 50 people attended the BOS hearing and that a “majority of constituents voiced apprehensions about the draft.” Finally, on Oct. 22, Needham reported again on a special BOS work session on the draft roadmap and recorded opinions from the Planning Commission and supervisors.

Another hearing – likely involving both the supervisors and the Planning Commission – is expected in November. The deadline for the supervisors to adopt, amend or reject the plan is Dec. 19. And we will be there to cover it.

“Home Sweet Home?” — continuing the conversation on housing

Mark your calendar:  At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17, Foothills Forum will host a public, virtual discussion on housing in Rappahannock. This event follows publication of “Home Sweet Home?”, the year-long Foothills reporting project by Sara Schonhardt in the Rappahannock News.

The questions that the series explored — and that will be the subject of conversation on Nov. 17 – include:
Can renters, seniors and the young find affordable places to live in Rappahannock? Can co-housing help people to stay in Rappahannock rather than leave the county? What is “village development?” Would more local housing open the door to too much development? How does the revised county comprehensive plan address housing?

Keep your eyes out for details at Foothills Forum and in the Rapp News.

INN to Zuckerberg:  “The world is watching. Facebook must do better.”

“Preserving a healthy democracy requires that the public, journalists and policymakers have access to credible, verifiable information and research. Facebook and all other platforms should stop interfering with researchers and journalists who are studying the platform in the public interest.”

With those words, the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) — of which Foothills Forum is a member — on Oct. 28 called on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to end efforts to shut down a browser plug-in that allows users to contribute information about the ads and ad targeting they encounter on Facebook.  Read the full article here.

Ad Observer, the browser plug-in, allows journalists and researchers to better understand political misinformation and manipulation that Facebook spreads daily. Ad Observer has revealed that Facebook fails to include political ads in its advertisement library, allows political campaigns to use targeting in manipulative ways to reach voters, and permits foreign voices to reach US voters with manipulative content.

“Voting has already begun in one of the most consequential elections in U.S. history,” said the joint statement from INN and a host of other stellar journalism institutions. “More than ever before in American politics, the members of the public need to know who is trying to influence them and how.”

A Festive, and Informative, Gathering

On Oct. 23 Foothills conducted its annual meeting in fine, virtual form with motivating presentations, celebratory toasts, and more. If you missed it and wish to see a recording, contact