We’re so thrilled to be celebrating our first birthday with you.
Since we launched on Sept. 1, 2021, your support has translated into hundreds of stories about local issues, many of which would otherwise have gone uncovered.
We began with humble coffers and the lofty goal to get people back in the habit of paying for local news. Today, we remain largely solvent thanks to this business model, your generosity. For folks who signed up early on with an annual subscription, I will be sending you a version of this letter with the hope you will continue your support in our second year.
As we celebrate our anniversary, I want to highlight some of our accomplishments, as well as remark on some of our challenges. Since our launch, we have:
- Forced Roanoke County to release video of the fatal 2016 police shooting of teenager Kionte Spencer, after paying more than $1,000 in public records fees; revealed low morale at Salem's high school due to an alleged toxic environment under the principal; and brought light to Roanoke city schools’ $1.5 million purchase of unproven Covid-killing air cleaning devices.
- Consistently brought you the most comprehensive coverage of Roanoke City Council; we have attended every meeting, followed the legal saga of ex-councilman Robert Jeffrey Jr. and kept you informed on various aspects of the upcoming Council elections.
- Balanced our hard-hitting local news with fun yet serious-minded culture coverage, including popular stories on the donate-what-you-can Ursula’s Café and War on Books mobile store; food coverage on lesser-known gems; reviews of local art exhibits; a weekly calendar of events freely accessible to non-subscribers; and a range of never-before-seen literature, from poetry to short stories to essays.
- Created partnerships with other local media, including cross publishing stories in The Roanoke Tribune and having weekly spots produced by radio station WFIR; influenced other local media to cover issues, with regional news outlets citing our reporting dozens of times.
We have also been committed to financial transparency, and our thirdly financial report, which runs through the end of August, should be published next week at the bottom of this page. Transparency means not only highlighting our achievements, but also acknowledging where we have fallen short.
We are grateful to each and every one of our more than 250 paying subscribers. But we did not meet our goal of 400 paying subscribers within our first 12 months. That benchmark was not entirely random, but based on a rate that a handful of other local media sites across the country had seen early in their operations, standardized to a population of 100,000, roughly the size of Roanoke. From a business perspective, this means we must continue to reach people in order to be sustainable.
Recently, we embarked on a social media campaign that will introduce 1,000 new readers to our free trial over the next several months. Our hope is that a fraction of those folks will become committed Rambler readers and help inch us closer to our initial subscriber goal.
I also want to provide an update on our last editor’s letter, which marked our first six months. We announced a fundraising campaign for an investigative reporter to cover “power” — those with the most and least political and economic power — in the community. While we are definitely still accepting money (hey, we have a PayPal now) for that role, which we think is critical, we have had to put those fundraising efforts on the back burner as our time has been consumed with the editorial side of the enterprise — in other words, making sure we’re bringing you the best local journalism each week.
We anticipate sharing more exciting news in the near future. In the meantime, we look forward to publishing more investigative, local news and original literature in the year ahead. We truly cannot do it without your support. Thank you.
The Roanoke Rambler
Local | Investigative | Literary