From the publisher: A different approach to news coming to town

by | May 21, 2023 | Around Town, Chris Muldrow, Columns

Publisher, Fredericksburg Today

I’ve owned Fredericksburg Today for six years now, and it has grown quite a bit over that time. Most of that growth is because of Ted Schubel’s tireless work to cover news in the area for B101 and share that news on the site. It turns out that people are really interested in a locally owned, locally directed effort to cover the news here in our region.

But we think the site can do more with the right support. There’s a new idea in town that might help us realize that dream.

In order to fully serve our community, we’d ideally have several reporters, people who are able to give time and effort to covering the news in the area. I’m of the opinion that the core group of those reporters should be paid to do the job full time, working in a newsroom guided by the principles of good journalism.

The reality is that Fredericksburg Today continues to exist because Ted (The hardest working man in Fredericksburg) volunteers a ton of time to keep it going, and I help cover the gap between what it costs to run the site and what little ad revenue comes into the site. My team at Rambletype basically puts the work in to keep the site up and running, and Ted works to get great news coverage on the site. But I’m finding that most people who are looking to advertise online are finding other ways to spend their money for ads. And that lack of funding makes it hard to cover the news in the community the way we’d like to do it.

Based on what we’re seeing in other parts of Virginia and the country, we can accomplish the goal of growing the newsroom–but the path to success is through a nonprofit news operation, funded by donations from the community and guided by an independent newsroom structure that is insulated from the desires of the people who give money (or by the whims of a corporate owner).

I’ve toyed with the idea of going nonprofit with this site for a while now, but distractions and other work for our “main business” have kept me from realizing that concept.

But it turns out several other people in town have independently been having very similar thoughts about creating a nonprofit news operation in town, and they’ve formed a group that is actively pursuing that goal. This group is working on the principle that local, independent journalism builds social cohesion, encourages community participation in the political process, improves the efficiency and decision-making of local government, and promotes economic development, the arts, and social welfare in the community it serves. As they worked through their ideas, someone connected them to me, and we started having conversations on how to achieve that goal.

They’ve talked to me, I’ve talked to them, and it looks like it is a very viable option for our community. I’ve joined their board, and we now have a very diverse (in ideology as well as background) board that is working to build a publication that will accurately reflect and report on our community.

Our thinking right now is that once the group gets enough funding together to guarantee some journalists a secure place to cover the news in the community, we’ll fire up the new site and merge our Fredericksburg Today site with it. The new site will be called The Fredericksburg Free Press.

Seth Silber, one of the owners of the FredNats, is one of the driving forces behind this new project, and he’s invited people who want to support the new Free Press project to a Founders Event at the ballpark on June 7. You can reserve space and become a “founder” here: https://fredericksburgfreepress.com/product/june-7-event/

If you can’t make the event, but you want to support the project, you can learn more (and donate) at https://fredericksburgfreepress.com. If you’ve got questions, you can shoot me a note at [email protected].

Subscribe To Daily News Updates

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from The Free Press

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This