VPF gives $5k grant to Capital News Service to help expand legislative coverage

By | 2018-10-25T19:25:39+00:00 October 25th, 2018|

The Virginia Press Foundation board voted last month to provide a $5,000 grant to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Capital News Service to help the program expand, ensuring that more local coverage of the Virginia General Assembly will be available through CNS to smaller community newspapers across Virginia.

The grant will be used during 2019 to help pay for student travel, records requests made under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and for two new DSLR cameras as well as new audio recorders and microphones.

Betsy Edwards, executive director of VPA, said the donation will benefit VPA community newspapers by providing them “timely legislative content.”

For the first time in the program’s history, CNS reporters will have the opportunity to travel and meet with VPA editors around the state to
discuss their coverage needs and to learn about their readers’ interests.

“Our plan is to generate additional localized coverage – news tailored to specific communities,” said Jeff South, associate professor in VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture and instructor for Capital News Service.

As part of the grant agreement, each participating VPA paper will be allowed to submit two stories they wish to have covered during the 2019 session. The requests may vary, from traditional news coverage (print story with accompanying photo) to other multimedia coverage such as photo essays or video, South said.

“Our plan is to generate additional localized coverage – news tailored to specific communities.”

The goal is to match one CNS reporter with one, maybe two, participating VPA papers to serve as a “liaison” between CNS and the paper, South said. A system will be created by CNS editors to ensure that as many stories as possible are assigned, covered and filed by reporters, South said.

Additionally, the grant will help cover costs for CNS reporters to travel and report on stories happening outside of the state house. These are stories that are impacting certain areas of the state and have a certain geographical angle —such as pipelines in southwest Virginia and sea rise in the Hampton Roads area—South said.

CNS is a free, student-run wire service that is based out of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU. The course runs every spring semester, beginning in January. Around 25 students will be enrolled in the upcoming semester.

The program has won dozens of awards at the state and regional levels and regularly has stories picked up by national publications such as the Seattle Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

All VPA member newspapers are eligible to subscribe to CNS. Papers may sign up by contacting Jeff South (jcsouth@vcu.edu).

The Virginia Press Foundation, established in 2013 by the VPA board of directors, is a 501 (c) (3) organization that’s mission is to help assure the future of Virginia journalism by providing training and resources to VPA’s member newspapers to develop the next generation of readers and journalists, and to educate the public on the importance of the First Amendment and the role of a free press.