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Five years in, The Harrisonburg Citizen sweeps up awards

 From left: Rachel Petterson, Bridget Manley, and Zia Faqiri all picked up Virginia Press Association awards for their work with The Citizen.
Virginia Press Association
From left: Rachel Petterson, Bridget Manley, and Zia Faqiri all picked up Virginia Press Association awards for their work with The Citizen.

Local news outlet The Harrisonburg Citizen will mark its fifth anniversary this fall. Earlier this month, it took home 10 individual Virginia Press Association awards, and garnered the 2022 News Sweepstakes award for online publications. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

One of The Citizen's publishers, Bridget Manley, spoke with me about the outlet's trajectory and recent accolades. Her voice will be familiar to you already, since she's also a freelance reporter for WMRA. Our organizations have a lot of overlap – I used to be the assistant editor there, and local newsies Andrew Jenner and Calvin Pynn also grace both of our metaphorical halls.

Jenner and James Madison University Professor Ryan Alessi co-founded The Citizen in 2018, and Manley joined soon after.

BRIDGET MANLEY: We wanted to fill in the holes and do profile work and highlight communities that were not necessarily getting a lot of the coverage. … We have been able to do some investigative things along the way that I think have made a difference in Harrisonburg. … But I think the most important and coolest part about The Citizen is that … The Citizen has kind of become an incubator for talent.

Besides WMRA, other alumni now work for The Virginian-Pilot and WTOP, to name a few.

One story that focused public scrutiny on a problem covered the allegations of mismanagement at The Salvation Army last year, which helped prompt an internal review.

At the Virginia Press Association banquet in Short Pump, Manley took home awards for her coverage of the Bridgewater College shooting and education issues. The Citizen as a whole took the online News Sweepstakes award.

MANLEY: There's a lot of strong competition in our category. … We know that what we're doing is awesome, so it felt really good to be recognized for those efforts in a room full of peers.

The Citizen team thanks their readers and donors for making their work possible.

The Virginia Press Association recognized The Harrisonburg Citizen for the following stories of 2022:

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.