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 do I have to pay to read The Rambler?

Good question. When the Internet emerged, many publications posted their journalism online for free, and many of us have become accustomed to accessing such news for free. Unfortunately, the rise of the Internet also tanked print advertising revenue, which still makes up the bulk of most newspapers' funding. Today, the vast majority of new digital ad revenue goes to Google and Facebook. A digital-only news outlet premised on ad revenue is nearly impossible.

So rather than rely upon advertisers, our publication must depend on the support of you, our readers. Subscriptions start as low as $8.33 per month. Individuals and businesses can sponsor newsletters through a text-only message at the patron level. But on The Rambler, you'll never find any pop-up ads, clickbait, moving pictures or other unfortunate advertising gimmicks.

How are you funded?

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

What if I have more questions?

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