About us

Welcome to The Roanoke Rambler. We are a local, investigative and literary newsletter and website based in Roanoke, Virginia.

Our mission is to enlighten members of the community with vibrant, local journalism that exposes wrongdoings, uncovers societal ills and holds the powerful accountable – and with essays and fiction that provoke and inspire.

You can subscribe here.

Who is The Rambler?

The Roanoke Rambler was established in September 2021 by Henri Gendreau, a former reporter at The Roanoke Times newspaper, with invaluable support from investigative reporter Mary Bishop, a Roanoke Times journalist from 1983-2002. The Rambler is only made possible thanks to a network of talented and professional freelance journalists, including Mason Adams, Layla Khoury-Hanold, Alex McCarthy and Tim Thornton, among others. We are indebted to Greg Dickens of Epilocal for his work with web development. As we grow, we will have more people to name and thank.

What is The Rambler?

The Roanoke Rambler is a weekly newsletter delivered via email. Each issue will highlight roughly four pieces, which you will be able to finish reading on our website through links in the newsletter.

Why The Rambler?

We are committed to serious, investigative news. Our name is a nod to Samuel Johnson's publication The Rambler, from the 1750s, whose intent "was that of a moralist aware of his duty to make the world better." Similarly, our journalism has moral force behind it. We aim to hold powerful interests accountable by exposing abuses of power and wrongdoing, with the intent of bringing about positive change in our community. With The Rambler's blend of hard-hitting news, short stories and poetry, we hope our journalism and literature will encourage your mind to wonder and wander. (We believe such encouragement is far too rare in our society.)

What kind of stories do you cover?

While our areas of coverage will ramble and not be restricted, we are initially focused on bringing you news and stories about local government and politics; the environment and climate crisis; and racial and social justice issues. We believe observant coverage of local government and politics is essential to an informed citizenry. Additionally, we believe our treatment of the planet and the effects of past and present racial discrimination are among the key issues of our time. In keeping with our mission to enliven your mind, we also publish occasional fiction, essays and poetry.

Are you a liberal rag? A mouthpiece for the right-wing?

Nope. Just a good old-fashioned journalism outlet. Unfortunately, discourse and perceptions around the news media have grown increasingly polarized of late. You can check out our Newsroom Policies page to learn more about our values. As journalists have done for a century, we pursue the truth without fear or favor, and hold powerful actors accountable for their actions. We don't pretend there's not an aspect of political philosophy involved in those values, but we're not beholden to any political party or ideology.

When does The Rambler appear?

Every Wednesday morning, straight to your inbox.

Why are some stories behind a paywall?

It costs us thousands of dollars each month to produce original, local journalism. We have a single employee who makes $31,200 per year.

That's why we rely on support from members, who have full access to all our journalism, for as little as $8.33 per month. From our launch in September 2021 through March 2023, all of our journalism required a subscription. Now, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter for free.

Yet we still want to provide extra value to our supporters. So we will continue to paywall some of our main stories, including our exclusive, investigative and in-depth stories.

How are you funded?

Mostly, by people like you! The bulk of our revenue is derived from readers who see the value in local journalism. You can become a member today here, or learn more about making a founding gift here.

We also accept advertisements and sponsorships from quality local businesses. You can find more information about those opportunities at this page. We may also rely on grants to support our journalism and literature, and will be transparent about the source of such grants.

Why isn't The Rambler a nonprofit?

Part of the experiment of The Rambler is to encourage community members to get back in the habit of paying for local news. We believe a committed reader base is a more reliable and sustainable source of revenue – which will allow us to grow and provide you with more and better journalism – than temporary grants and one-time gifts from large donors. With support from many subscribers, we will not be beholden to big-dollar donors or monied interests.

We are incorporated as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Virginia under the name Big Blue Press because such incorporation was the quickest way to get our venture off the ground and into your inbox. Since we believe strongly in transparency, we aim to make certain financial information public, as nonprofits are required to do. We intend to publish our "thirdly" reports every four months, with a breakdown of our current revenue and expenditures over that timeframe.

Please note that any profits that we may be fortunate enough to see will go to support our journalism and literature, largely through payment to staff or freelance journalists and writers.

How can I contribute?

We appreciate your interest. There are many ways to contribute to The Roanoke Rambler. For each of these inquiries, you can write to Editor-in-Chief Henri Gendreau at editor@roanokerambler.com.

Financially

You can become a supporting member of The Roanoke Rambler at our Support Us page. Our readers are our main source of revenue! Additionally, if you are interested in making a founding tax-deductible gift, please reach out to us directly.

Journalistically

If you are interested in becoming a contributing writer to The Roanoke Rambler, please review our news coverage and our ethics policies before contacting us. We pay no less than $200 per news article and $50 per brief photo assignment.

We are looking for freelancers who have prior journalism experience or contributors who have writing or photography chops and a commitment to strong journalistic principles.

Literarily

Are you a talented short story writer, poet or creative nonfiction writer? We accept and publish a broad range of original fiction, essays and poetry, with a preference for works written by those who live in the Roanoke area or broader region, to include Virginia, Appalachia and the American South. Writers are encouraged to submit examples of short stories that have not been published elsewhere; poets are encouraged to submit at least four poems that have not previously been published.

Please note we do not review simultaneous submissions. Currently, we are operating on a one- to two-month turnaround time.

We pay no less than $25 per poem and $100 per short story or essay.

We have no strict line count limits, but short fiction and essays should not run more than 2,500 words, unless under extraordinary circumstances.

We require writers to sign a contract that acknowledges that accepted work is original; that The Rambler is granted first rights of publication; that the work cannot be republished before a period of six (6) months after publication in The Rambler; that The Rambler may archive the work on its website; and that The Rambler is granted nonexclusive anthology rights.

Please send submissions as an attached Word document to Henri at editor@roanokerambler.com with the subject line FICTION or POETRY or NONFICTION with your last name. Failure to comply with these instructions may render your submission unread. If you have not heard back from us in three months, please reach out to us again.

Advisorily

Yes, this is a word. We are interested in hearing from folks in the community who are interested in supporting the mission of The Rambler, have a particular field of expertise – such as journalism, the law, business, finance, fundraising, accounting, or community-building – and who are willing to donate their time. We seek to form an informal advisory panel whose members can be called on for advice on and insights into how The Rambler can best fulfill its mission.

What if I have more questions?

Please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Visit our Contact page.