Virginia Press Foundation focuses on future of journalism

2019-12-16T17:20:25+00:00December 13th, 2019|

The Virginia Press Foundation was established six years ago with a mission to provide training and education to foster the ideas of good journalism and educate the public on the importance of the First Amendment and the role of a free press.

“The three prongs of the mission of the VPF ultimately are all about the future of journalism and the continued importance of a free press in this country,” Paul Fletcher, foundation board president, said. “We need to focus on what lies ahead for our profession and ensuring we continue to play a role.”

There has never been a better time to support journalism, including students and smaller news organizations that strive to provide their communities with the information they need despite a changing business climate.

“In my 30 years in this business, I’ve not seen a more hostile environment for reporters and news organizations, and such an intense undermining of the fundamental truth,” Anne Adams, the foundation’s vice president, said.

“Anyone who cares about preserving the Fourth Estate as a means to protect and inform our citizenry should support the foundation and its mission.”

Jeff Poole, who serves as VPF’s secretary and treasurer, said the mission of the foundation speaks directly to the future of journalism through training, developing the next generation of journalists and educating the public on the importance of journalism.”

Since its inception, the VPF has worked toward fulfilling its mission in several ways. More than a dozen student journalists were awarded scholarships to attend the Virginia Press Association’s annual conference in April where they heard industry leaders discuss new and emerging trends in journalism and networked with others in the industry.

The foundation also launched an annual newsroom tech workshop two years ago which is designed to show young reporters the various tools that can be used in their reporting. The workshop has received positive feedback from attendees each year.

A $5,000 grant provided by the foundation to the Capital News Service, a free, student-run wire service based at Virginia Commonwealth University, helped ensure that VPA members received timely articles on issues coming out of the General Assembly session last year. The CNS program expanded this year to offer coverage in the fall semester, in addition to plans to cover the legislature again in 2020.

“I am proud of our support for the CNS program at VCU and our making numerous stories available to VPA members,” Fletcher said.

News organizations today face an unprecedented array of challenges ranging from financial, technological, social and political, according to Jeff South, VPF board member.

“The VPF, working with the VPA, can help newsrooms meet those challenges and provide a support network for people who work in Virginia’s news media,” South added.

Adams noted that she is particularly proud of the fact that the foundation has been able to offer scholarships and stipends for professional development programs and seminars that journalists, or their publishers, might not otherwise be able to afford.

“No one is under any illusions. It’s tougher than ever to be a journalist,” Adams said. “VPF is an anchor and source of inspiration for reporters and their newspapers, and importantly, an entity that supports and promotes the basic tenets of solid, high-quality journalism and the vital role it plays in our lives.”

Fletcher envisions the Virginia Press Foundation being a resource for not only today’s journalists but those who choose to follow the profession in the future.

“We will ensure that the public remains aware of and educated on the importance of a free press in a democracy such as ours,” he said.

VPF board members are focused on fundraising efforts that support the foundation’s mission. More financial resources mean the ability of the foundation to do more to help make journalists and journalism better, Fletcher said.

South said it is important to listen to the needs of VPA members. He said members’ input will guide the foundation in building a plan for its future.

Funding is essential to help the foundation achieve its mission. According to Adams, corporations, other nonprofit entities and individuals who supoort journalists are among those should consider contributing.

“Without informed citizens, democracy fails …,” Adams said. “It’s that simple. The Virginia Press Foundation is needed now more than ever.”

Recognizing excellence within the industry is also a focus of the foundation, which will debut its first VPF Leadership and Innovation Awards program on April 3 in Roanoke. Planning is underway and more details will be available soon.

To donate to the Virginia Press Foundation, click DONATE

Article by Deana Meredith/VPA Communications Manager