Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Roanoke Rambler, a weekly newsletter featuring local and investigative news, as well as original short fiction and poetry.
You may be curious: Why do we exist?
When I moved to Roanoke three years ago to take a job as public safety reporter at The Roanoke Times, I joined a newsroom of about 60 talented journalists. As time went by, I saw colleague after colleague leave the newspaper. They left for greener pastures. On my computer I keep a spreadsheet, which to update is an increasingly depressing task. It lists the names, by year, of newsroom employees at the paper. Those roughly 60 journalists number closer to 30 now.
We have many problems in our society, problems so ingrained we call them crises: addiction, climate, poverty. And now the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is another, more subtle crisis that has been accelerating over the last couple decades: the decline of local news.
Studies have shown consistently that the closure of a newspaper — or even a reduction in news coverage — leads to a broad decline in civic engagement: everything from how often people share a meal with family, to whether citizens contact their elected officials. Corruption increases. Political polarization intensifies. Even a city’s bond rating is affected. (It declines.)
So when I was among nine journalists laid off from The Roanoke Times in April 2021 due to COVID-induced budget cuts, I began thinking more seriously about how Roanoke could benefit from a new local news publication. The Roanoke Rambler was born.
But — and here is the key point — this is not the project of one journalist. Neither can this publication be sustained by our network of talented freelance writers and artists alone.
This experiment depends on you. We exist to serve the community in Roanoke and the region, and I have no doubt we will succeed in our mission with your help and your engagement. Whether you become a subscriber or you bring your expertise to our advisory board, only together can we enliven local journalism and literature here in Roanoke and beyond. I hope you will ramble along with us.
The Roanoke Rambler
Local | Investigative | Literary