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Newsletterpalooza 

As traditional print media continues to decline, locally focused news and culture e-newsletters are everywhere.

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Illustration by Jeff Bland

It’s a story you already know: the business model of print media has been upended in the digital age.

Some publications have folded or publish less frequently. Some have moved entirely online. In the meantime, new, online-only ventures have sprung up to fill the coverage gaps left by traditional print media outlets.

But without a physical publication, how do you connect readers to the stories they’re interested in? Surely, some bookmark their favorite websites and check them regularly. Social media is mandatory. There’s also the e-newsletter.

According to a recent Reuters study, 22% of Americans said they came across news stories in the past week via email. Local news organizations have taken note; pretty much every print- or web-based media outlet puts out a newsletter to help drive traffic to their sites and keep readers informed. Recently, Richmond has seen an explosion of these newsletters.

Below is a roundup of some of the ways these newsletters are keeping Richmonders informed. [Editor’s note: Having published several weekly e-newsletters in years past, Style Weekly is planning to bring back the format again in the future.]

Axios Richmond

Launched in May, Axios Richmond is part of national online media company Axios’ effort to expand into local markets. Helmed by longtime Richmond Times-Dispatch staffer Karri Peifer and Ned Oliver, formerly of the Virginia Mercury, the RTD and Style, Axios Richmond offers quick, bullet pointed takes on the news of the day, as well as local restaurant happenings.

Good Morning, RVA

Written by Ross Catrow, former publisher of RVANews, this conversational weekday roundup is a bit like having your wonky, in-the-know friend recap the morning’s news for you. After starting with the weather, the newsletter summarizes the main news stories of the morning in its “Water Cooler” section.

Catrow adds his take on the news of the day, in a pleasant and upfront way: the man likes his public transit. He’s big on crediting reporters and will add information from press releases that news organizations decided not to cover. There’s also “This Morning’s Long Read,” usually from a news outlet outside of Virginia, then a “Picture of the Day.”

Richmond BizSense

As the business team at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has been gutted over the years, Richmond BizSense has stepped into the gap. Launched in 2008, the online news outlet publishes roughly half a dozen local business stories that it compiles each weekday in its daily newsfeed. In addition to local business reporting, the outlet also tracks business openings and closings, foreclosures, building permits, business licenses and legal disputes. The newsletter also includes other local and national business stories from other outlets. Be warned: their paywall is no joke. [Additional clarification: According to BizSense Editor Michael Schwartz, "the news stories are all free and open to anyone for the first 30 days after publication. After that, they’re put behind the paywall along with [their] entire news archive and all the data sections."]

Richmond Magazine

For more than 40 years, Richmond Magazine has been the city’s premiere glossy. The publication has a few different newsletters, including “Food News,” “Editor’s First Look” – which promotes upcoming stories for its print edition – and its “River City Roundup.” The latter is released every Monday and offers subscribers staff picks for things to do around Richmond for the coming week.

RVA 5x5

For Jon Baliles, RVA 5x5 is a return to form. In the mid-2000s, Baliles wrote the blog rivercityrapids.com, offering his analysis of local media and politics. The blog was popular enough that Baliles, the son of former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, was hired in 2008 to be Mayor Douglas Wilder’s press aide.

Four years later, Baliles won election to Richmond City Council, representing the 1st District. In 2016, he ran for mayor, before leaving the race and putting his support behind the race’s winner, current Mayor Levar Stoney. After briefly serving as a senior policy advisor for Stoney, he essentially left local politics in 2018.

In early June he launched RVA 5x5, a blog and newsletter that offers Baliles’ commentary on the happenings of Richmond and the surrounding region. A typical RVA 5x5 serves up five news stories that reference multiple sources, old and new, to give context and insight. Baliles’ tagline? “No algorithms. No content filters. Honest and insightful analysis.”

RVA Magazine

Launched in 2005, RVA Magazine was founded as a monthly magazine. It’s since gone digital and puts out a newsletter every Friday that teases stories about arts, music, food and culture. It also includes “RVA Shows You Must See This Week,” a useful roundup of upcoming musical acts, by Marilyn Drew Necci.

VaNews

The OG of Virginia newsletters, the VaNews had its beginnings in 1996 when Tom Whipple, a retired CIA analyst in Northern Virginia, began copying and pasting stories from newspaper websites about Virginia politics into Microsoft Word and creating printouts of the day’s news. As Whipple’s compilation grew in popularity, he began emailing his roundup to politicos who asked. The number of subscribers grew over the next 15 years.

Once referred to as “The Whipple Report,” VaNews is a collection of the day’s political stories. Since 2011, the report has been run by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit best known for keeping a database of the state’s campaign contributions.

Every weekday, VaNews provides an exhaustive rundown, pulling from newspapers, broadcast outlets, magazines and wire services. Best of all for political junkies, lobbyists, legislators, reporters and state employees who read it, VaNews does a good job of picking up news stories from smaller publications that don’t always get the attention they deserve.

Virginia Business*

This weekday roundup is created each morning by the staff of Virginia Business, a monthly business magazine. The newsletter plugs a few of its own stories before launching into its “Heard Around Virginia” section, compiling about a dozen of the day’s top business stories. It closes with a handful of top national and international news stories.

Virginia Mercury

Launched in 2018 by a group of former Richmond Times-Dispatch reporters, the Virginia Mercury is a nonprofit online news organization that primarily reports on state government and policy. Each weekday morning, the Mercury puts out a newsletter recapping the past day and offering a roundup of headlines from other news outlets about Virginia.

*Full disclosure: Griset used to be a deputy editor for Virginia Business.

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