Update on civic media and community engagement

“Blacksburg Tomorrow”?

We all know the media landscape is changing. More people are reading their news online and looking for multiple sources of news, including social media.  Yet, in many communities local newsrooms are shrinking and the information our democracy and a thriving local community depends upon is getting even harder to find.

Last winter, I was contacted by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance which is involved in an effort to reinvigorate local information resources, news and otherwise, in Blacksburg. That conversation led to an invitation to meet with their residents and Virginia Tech faculty and students to discuss our work in civic media and community engagement.

A video capturing the evening presentation at the Lyric Theater has just recently been published.  I was joined by Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Senior Reporter, and we both found it very interesting to see another Virginia community searching for new ways to share information and engage the public.

Throughout the day we were peppered with questions about the origins of our organization, funding, our board of directors, our daily work, and of course our partnership with The Daily Progress.

It was an invigorating day, and a good reminder that we have a lot to be thankful for in the resources and information we are able to share in this community.  I sincerely hope Blacksburg proves to be as generous towards whatever form of new media they decide to pursue as our local donors and foundations have proven to be. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without this community’s generous support.


I shared in Blacksburg some of the metrics below related to our news partnership.  While Media General, the company that owns The Daily Progress, does not pay for articles we write, the partnership pays off for us in many other ways.  For example, our surveys tell us many of you see our content primarily because it’s in the paper or on their website.

In 2012, we are planning a series of events and activities to build even better connections with you.  That has been facilitated by a major grant from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.  I know many of you are noticing the increased attention our Community Engagement Coordinator, Jennifer Marley, has put on everything from social media to community events.

For those of you interested in reviewing this data and the presentation, we are naturally curious about your observations.  We are half way through this grant, and I’d like to hear what’s on your mind.

Charlottesville Tomorrow + The Daily Progress: Partnership Highlights 2009-2011

    487 published stories (newspaper’s online and print editions) including major front page stories, features, and collaborative series – 24 stories a month in 2011

    17% increase in newspaper’s content on growth and development (Charlottesville Tomorrow now produces almost 50% of content in that area)

    100% of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s stories now appear on the newspaper’s website and more than 80% appear in print

    217% increase in Charlottesville Tomorrow’s website traffic

    Significant collaboration between editors and reporters, in both organizations, to maximize quality and timeliness of coverage

    Joint production of local election voter guides and co-sponsoring of candidate forums – Newspaper makes in-kind gift for voter guide layout and printing

    There is no direct financial contribution to Charlottesville Tomorrow