After one year, First Person Charlottesville has brought new voices into our community conversations — and also is being held up in national conversations about new ways to reinvent local news.

Charlottesville Inclusive Media was invited to the Collaborative Journalism Summit in June to speak about the evolution of their work to increase representation in local media, and its project, First Person Charlottesville, which encourages more people to tell their stories and participate in the local news ecosystem.

The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University hosted the Summit in partnership with the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University in Washington D.C.

In its pilot year, First Person Charlottesville received 28 pitches from community members, published 12 written stories, one photo essay, and created five pilot podcast episodes.

YouTube video

Angilee Shah, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s CEO and Editor-In -Chief, Charles Lewis, Producer and Co-Host of the In My Humble Opinion talk show, and Sarad Davenport, Chief of Operations of Vinegar Hill Magazine, presented on the center stage to share their experiences of building trust through media.

In the aftermath of the racial violence of the summer of 2017 in Charlottesville, wavering trust between journalists and the communities they report on began to shatter. Charlottesville Inclusive Media began work to mend that relationship in an honest and sustainable way. 

“We needed ways to get more people involved in the work of journalism, to get people involved in the work of telling stories of central Virginia,  to build a space to help people tell their own stories the way they wanted to,” said Shah. “Those narratives become core to the conversations we have in the city and our surrounding counties.”

First Person Charlottesville was highlighted at the Summit as a way that media organizations can support the communities they serve, and reshape the landscape of local journalism itself. 

Charles Lewis shared a powerful example of what building trust can look like with a clip from an episode of In My Humble Opinion’s podcast. The segment featured India Sims, who spoke candidly about her disillusionment with Charlottesville’s treatment of those who are disabled.

“For people that have been underrepresented and misrepresented, there’s a level of trust that has to be built first,” said Lewis.

Amplifying the voices of more people in the community is key. “If it changes the media coverage of other organizations because of our approach and our ability to be innovative, then we think it’s better for the quality of the community,” said Davenport.

First Person Charlottesville is possible because members of the community have chosen to support it. You can help keep it going by donating to Charlottesville Inclusive Media project.

The Center for Cooperative Media has made the presentation available for the public to watch on their YouTube channel.

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We are a partnership between Charlottesville Tomorrow, Vinegar Hill Magazine and the In My Humble Opinion talk show on 101.3 Jamz. Find out more.