November 1, 2018
Fauquier Media Lab seeks local journalism expansion
The new Fauquier Media Lab will focus on experimentation and innovation to expand journalism in the community.
A new entity, the Fauquier Media Lab will work to expand the amount and quality of journalism in the county, its founders announced this week.
We’re providing support for the media lab, because we believe it’s going to take some bold and out-of-the-box ideas to really make a difference in the news and reporting available to residents of Fauquier.
— Barbara “Bobbie” Crafts
Fauquier Media Lab
• What: Local journalism incubator
• Founded: Nov. 1
• Mission: Expand coverage and develop new revenue streams to support it
• Founders: Barbara and Ralph Crafts, Ellen and Lawrence Emerson, Leland Schwartz
A partnership of FauquierNow.com, journalist Leland Schwartz and philanthropists/entrepreneurs Barbara “Bobbie” and Ralph Crafts, the lab formally launched Nov. 1 in Warrenton.
The lab will serve as an incubator for new ways to cover, disseminate and financially support local news. Its successful experiments will expand FauquerNow’s services.
“We’ve proven that an online news startup can succeed here,” said Lawrence “Lou” Emerson, a veteran journalist who with his wife Ellen Fox Emerson launched FauquierNow.com on Oct. 1, 2011. “But, despite our growth and staff additions, Fauquier County still has far fewer journalists covering the community than it did just more than a decade ago.”
Mr. Schwartz said: “We’re going to try and crack the code to make make local journalism economically stronger, so it’s sustainable and vibrantly serves the community.”
The Fauquier Media Lab will focus on collaboration and innovation.
“The only way this will work is if we are successful getting help and advice from all the great writers, thinkers and inventors in the county who want more local news and information,” Mr. Schwartz said
Mr. and Mrs. Crafts, who live near Marshall, will provide startup funding for the lab.
“We’re providing support for the media lab, because we believe it’s going to take some bold and out-of-the-box ideas to really make a difference in the news and reporting available to residents of Fauquier,” Mrs. Crafts said.
The Crafts have donated funds to help build a new terminal at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport near Midland. Mrs. Crafts earlier this year purchased a Warrenton building to ensure the future of Claire’s at The Depot, a popular restaurant.
A writer, photographer and former teacher, she runs an equine rescue operation. Her husband, a former Marine fighter pilot, owns and operates MTO Kombucha at Vint Hill and works on sustainability, including rainwater capture systems.
Mr. Schwartz, director of the media lab, founded and ran States News Service in Washington for 30 years. More recently, he worked as a reporter and editorial writer at The Fauquier Times after its sale to Piedmont Media, a company that local investors founded to acquire the newspaper in 2016.
Mr. and Mrs. Emerson have worked in local media since the 1980s. They founded The Fauquier Citizen in 1989 and The Culpeper Citizen in 2003. The Emersons sold the award-winning weekly newspapers to the Arundel family, former owners of The Fauquier Times, in January 2006. Mr. Emerson came to Warrenton as editor of the local newspaper in 1983.
“The business has changed dramatically,” he said. “Across the nation, newspapers have shrunk and shed staff. While Fauquier doesn’t qualify as a ‘news desert,’ it no longer has 25 journalists covering the community, as it did in 2005.”
He noted that Warrenton decades ago also had a Washington Post bureau, a Culpeper Star-Exponent bureau and WQRA-FM’s local news operation.
“Those days have passed,” Mr. Emerson said. “And, the world owes us nothing. We must earn our way to build a more robust journalistic enterprise.
“But, this community deserves more. The Crafts have provided a rare opportunity for us, working with Leland, to experiment, stretch and grow.”
The Fauquier Media Lab and FauquierNow.com will begin to roll out new features in coming months.
“We welcome suggestions and potential collaborators,” Mr. Schwartz said.
FauquierNow will retain its independence and the Emersons’ complete ownership. Mrs. Emerson will manage the media lab’s finances and advertising, as she does for the news website.
“Since our launch seven years ago, the additions of two superb journalists — Cassandra Brown and Don Del Rosso — have expanded and improved FauquierNow’s coverage,” Mr. Emerson said. “We hope the media lab ultimately leads to more jobs for journalists in our community.”
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Jim Griffin · November 1, 2018 at 11:52 am
Congratulations on a bold venture aimed at better serving our fine community. This is much appreciated.
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