Five years in, The Harrisonburg Citizen sweeps up awards
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:
- Multimedia Report — 1st place and best in show to Zia Faqiri for her high school electric soapbox derby story.
- Multimedia Report — 2nd place to Eric Gorton for his Christmas Bird Count 2022 coverage
- Multimedia Report — 3rd place to Becca Gvozden for her coverage of the climate protest in August.
- Photo story/essay — 1st place and best in show to Mike Tripp for his Iron Kings arm-wrestling club photo essay
- Video story — 1st place to Kevin Gorman for his video package on the patrons and car show attendees at the Bar-B-Q Ranch
- Video story — 2nd place also to Kevin Gorman for his video package on volunteers helping out Showalter’s Orchard before a hurricane swept over Virginia last fall.
- Breaking news writing — 2nd place to Bridget Manley for her coverage of the shooting of two Bridgewater College officers last February.
- Education coverage — 2nd place to Bridget Manley for her coverage of Harrisonburg city school-related issues, including the lawsuit a group of parents and teachers filed against the district, the effects public debate over policies regarding transgender students have had on the LGBTQ community in the schools, and the story she broke about school board chair Nick Swayne resigning to take a job in Idaho.
- Feature profile writing — 2nd place to Jessica Kronzer for her piece on a JMU alumna who is an entrepreneurial jewelry maker who made a Forbes list of young business leaders on the rise.
- Feature story writing (excluding obits) — Rachel Petterson and Gracie Brogowski for their piece about the woman who turned her back porch into a stage for community theater productions. (Zia also took the photos for that piece.)