Charlottesville is full of potential. But we can’t be the best community possible until we create space for more people to lead. Charlottesville Tomorrow, Vinegar Hill Magazine and the In My Humble Opinion talk show — together Charlottesville Inclusive Media — believe that it’s time for a change.  If we are going to fulfill Charlottesville’s potential together, we have to invite more people into everything, but especially into our media, our stories and, really, our shared understanding of who we are.

Charlottesville Inclusive Media was created for this moment. Our three organizations are independent, with our own histories, missions and frameworks in which we work. But we share a common goal: Create news and information that better informs and includes our communities.

After several years of building our partnership, and telling stories that matter to more people in our communities, we are framing a collaborative approach to newsmaking that builds up conversations and understanding for our community. We are creating an inclusive pathway for media professionals, a sustainable media ecosystem that creates more ways for people to tell their stories and speak the truths of more of our neighbors. In short, we are inviting more people (and compensating more people) to tell the stories of Charlottesville and the surrounding areas.

Sarad Davenport, content manager and digital strategist for Vinegar Hill Magazine says, “Much of how we frame the existence of people of color, and Black people in particular, is as a problem that must be solved… What is more true is that life is complex across race and culture and there is no lack of innovation, but there is often a morbid lack of resources.”

Davenport and Giles Morris, executive director of Charlottesville Tomorrow, spoke with the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) about what makes Charlottesville Inclusive Media powerful. INN is a network of 360 independent news organizations around the country and shares resources and examples of what is working in local news.

Morris took the helm of Charlottesville Tomorrow in 2018 to build an organization that could take on our racial reckoning and inequality. “I felt at the time, and still feel, that the failure of local news business models contributes to the passive racism that local media adopted over a period of decades,” he says. “My role was to lead the organization through this transition at all levels — staffing, revenue, journalism, mission, board makeup, distribution — and to build an organization that treated its own people and its community with the dignity, value and respect they deserve.”

The partnership has been crucial to meeting that mandate because of the perspectives the three organizations have brought to each other.

“CIM’s progress in influencing the larger media landscape through our ally relationship has been much faster than I could have imagined,” Morris says.

“Tackling these questions together without losing our identity and rootedness is and will always be a challenge, but in the tension we seek a higher order of being, not only in journalism but in the community and world. It’s hard work, we have to be very thoughtful and trust comes with time. Leaving space for each other and also speaking together at times is important,” says Davenport.

The working title of CIM’s plan is First Person Charlottesville — a multiplatform channel and community that will bring to the fore first-person testimonies and closely reported stories about life in our community. The project is seeking its first major funder to anchor the work for the next three years. If you’re as excited about this work as we are, here are three things you can do:

  1. Subscribe to Charlottesville Tomorrow’s email newsletter, Vinegar Hill’s newsletter, and In My Humble Opinion’s YouTube channel.
  2. Make a tax-deductible donation to CIM. Your donation will be made to Charlottesville Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization. When you include a note that you would like your donation to go to CIM, it will be earmarked for this work.
  3. Interested in making a large investment to get First Person Charlottesville off the ground? Contact Michaux Hood at mhood AT cvilletomorrow DOT org.