Some of you may recall an earlier post describing Rappahannock County as a “news desert” (see Why Local News Matters from down below).

Well, things change, often for the better.

Apart from what Foothills Forum has done recently via its agreement with Rappahannock Media (three-part series of enhanced reporting in April on the findings of the Foothills Forum survey), there are encouraging new developments.

Two new entrants, different yet quite distinctive, have entered the local news field, to our great collective benefit,

Rappahannock Record

Kaitlin Struckmann has filled a need by recording local governmental meetings and uploading the videos to YouTube. The need arose when county residents asked: What would it take to videotape the Rappahannock County School Board meetings? The topic kicked off a robust discussion on the listserv RappNet, and the school board took the challenge to heart, investigating ways to get the job done. Kaitlin, a frequent and fearless RappNet contributor, up and volunteered. Her volunteer efforts expanded to the county supervisors meetings and the Town of Washington council meetings.

She launched Rappahannock Record and set about to raise $1,000 for expenses on the crowdfunding site Gofundme. She raised the dough in three days. She got individual contributions from the likes of Sheila Gresinger, Ben Jones and my own self. A final contribution of $490 from Foothills Forum wrapped up the campaign this weekend. We’re pleased to be contributors.

Kaitlin’s volunteer public service is a superb example of how one individual can make a contribution and generate community engagement. She’s a can-do person who shows how a newcomer makes a difference. A good idea attracts all kinds.

The small contribution to the Rappahannock Record also shows that Foothills Forum willingly supports news and information in Rappahannock County from a variety of sources. (And credit goes to School Board member Larry Grove for planting the seed for getting FF involved).

Congratulations to Kaitlin. Be sure to check those videos out on the Rappahannock Record site @ YouTube.

Old Rag Gazette

Next up: Old Rag Gazette, the online news magazine serving Rappahannock County.

Three long-time Rappsters whomped up ORG (wonder if that acronym’s on purpose) this winter. They are Jim Blubaugh, Jed Duvall and Larry Grove. (I know all three well; and two of ’em are much better poker players than I am). Jed Duvall played a key role, BTW, in getting Foothills Forum launched, and remains a valued advisor and contributor.

Here’s an excerpt from the magazine’s description from the About section:

“Old Rag Gazette is an online magazine centered on issues of interest to Rappahannock County, Virginia, and the surrounding areas.  It is named for the signature mountain nearby in the Blue Ridge chain.  The magazine is completely run by volunteers and contains no paid advertising. … 

“Anyone may post in the magazine, subject to our Statement of Principles …  We invite you to do so.  Any topic that is germane to the area is fair game.  We value quality content, adult discussion, and neighborliness.  All viewpoints are welcome.”

The thing I like best about ORG? The Statement of Principles. They’re worth a look, but they value openness, fairness, civility, quality.

Best example of the quality: Founder Jim Blubaugh’s great interview with departing county administrator John McCarthy. Check it out.

Flip through the Old Rag Gazette and add your eyeballs and clicks to this welcome source of news and information. They’ve invited authors to add information about their books to a section called Writer’s Block.

These two newcomers add variety to the mix. The more, the merrier.

A final note: The RappNet listserv folks have a new blog site. I’ll take a wait-and-see on this one (my opinion; not speaking for the whole of Foothills). For all the historic good intention behind RappNet over the years, not to mention the good it’s done as an outlet of opinion, camaraderie and entertainment, the current version features alarming amounts of misinformation, disinformation and personal vitriol. Judging by the number of folks turned off and turned away by it, that’s more harmful to the county than good. We’re all cloaked by the First Amendment and can say just about any darned thing we want, but news sites value facts, veracity and fairness, “No rules” may be OK as the backbone of a listserv, but not for a news site. If the tone of the blog rises above RappNet and its LOC boards and approaches objectivity, civility and fairness, good for us. If not, well, it’s a shame. Note that I’m not suggesting rules and restrictions; the listserv can choose whatever form of self-governance it wishes.

Who knows what’s next? Low band radio? RappTV?