October update: The new regional news website for southwestern Virginia was renamed CardinalNews.org just before launch, emphasizing that it is a nonprofit organization and removing the suggestion that it actually was printing a traditional newspaper. The publication is off to a great start… Check it out! And, while you are at it, write them a check.
Yay! I just sent a friend a note about the Cardinal.Press project, and Facebook Messenger recognized that string as a legitimate web-address. Facebook had earlier rejected the newfangled “dotpress” Internet domain, but it now allows links to the new address, whose staff are promising to bring more serious news reporting to southwestern Virginia, where I live.
Add them to another recent start-up about an hour northeast of me, the Roanoke Rambler!
Insider information: Addresses ending in “.Press” (instead of “.com” or “.org” etc.) are being marketed heavily to individual journalists and new non-profit independent publishers interested in doing what “The Press” used to do …
That is, folks who are doing what newspapers did before owners started throwing news media companies under the wheels of “vulture capitalists” who gutted the staffs, consolidated papers, sold presses, homogenized layout and design, fired senior people with decades of community and political knowledge, and ended the local “big building downtown” visibility that helped make newspapers pillars of their communities for a century or two.
Those most recent chain companies like Alden Capital appear to be more about making money on real estate profits, selling off regional bureaus and branch offices as well as historic newspaper buildings all over America, while sending reduced staffs of reporters to file their stories from laptops at Starbucks, or something… and keeping “newspaper” brand-names just alive enough to sell ads (and more ads) and website subscriptions.
“Cardinal.Press” is a memorable address. But of course you don’t need a dot and the word “Press” at the end of a Web address to do journalism. Will that new batch of domain-addresses truly be a wave of the future or prove to be just a marketing scheme for folks to make money selling domain-name registrations? That is yet to be seen.
BUT the good news is that Southwestern Virginia now has two new places preparing to report the news in a professional manner … After a series of cutbacks, layoffs and retirements at The Roanoke Times, once the region’s powerful daily & Sunday paper, veteran reporters and editors have created both Cardinal.Press and RoanokeRambler.com — born-from-the-ashes startups here in the New River Valley, southwestern Virginia and the Roanoke Valley, covering counties and regional issues the Times has abandoned.
The Roanoke Times, which got into the domain-names business early enough to grab roanoke.com, is still operating in print and online, and I still pay for a subscription because I have nothing but respect for the reporters and editors who are still doing their jobs… The paper’s horrendously ad-soaked website, with frequently dysfunctional search engine, does let me subscribe to email headline-notifications for reporters who cover things I care about. I used to subscribe to eight or nine bylines. I deleted a few when I heard those individuals had left. Now layoffs and retirements have the list down to six and of those only three are still active (one just became editor of Cardinal.Press), but I do still read a few stories a day from the remaining notification-emails…
But while some former staffers are taking the Phoenix-from-the-ashes approach to building a new regional journalism, the owners of the Times have seemed intent on making an ash of the paper for years under Berkshire-Hathaway and Lee Newspapers. Last year the Times simply gave up sending reporters to my city (Radford) and neighboring communities except for major crimes or court cases, covid-on-campus wrap-ups, and college sports. (Radford has a university, although smaller than the one a dozen miles away in Blacksburg, which the Times hasn’t abandoned fully. It has more and bigger sports.)
Cardinal.Press plans its full launch later this month and will focus on the area south and southwest of Roanoke. Presumably the Roanoke Times veterans at Cardinal.Press and the Roanoke Rambler will avoid competing with each other, the Rambler presumably more focused on the city and county that share its name. Cardinal.Press probably will cover more regional issues, not county-by-county hyperlocal news, given its much larger coverage area.
(I wonder whether its area will turn out to be roughly the size and shape of “The Crooked Road,” the roughly two dozen counties, towns and cities mapped out by promoters and supporters of Virginia mountain music. At least that’s how I read their early Press announcements. Time will tell. See the “about” pages at both sites for more about their evolving self-definitions, and to write them a check or two.)
I’m encouraged that both Roanoke Rambler and Cardinal.Press are staffed by experienced professional journalists who just can’t shake the habit of keeping an eye on the powerful, and trying to tell people useful information. They also have new approaches to paying the bills for “watchdog journalism.”
I almost forgot two older “alternative” news sites worth attention: https://vcij.org/ and https://www.virginiamercury.com/ should be on this list too, although they have been around a while longer: The Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Richmond-centered Virginia Mercury. Actually, both have headquarters in the state capital, and have been on my bookmark lists for a few years.
Virginia online media: Collect the complete set!