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I’ve covered business issues since first starting journalism at my college newspaper: My first above-the-fold story involved a price war between two popular sandwich restaurants near campus.
Since then I’ve covered everything from candy factories to real estate, restauranteurs to tobacco farmers. As a longtime government and politics reporter at the Roanoke Times, I’ve written about a variety of public-private partnerships and the what government can do to encourage — or discourage — business and development.
Since leaving the Roanoke Times, I have written regularly for Roanoke Business magazine and covering issues in the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley.
I first tapped into energy issues early in my journalism career, tracking trends in 11 western states while interning at High Country News in the fall of 2001.
Most of my energy-related at the Roanoke Times were focused through the lens of politics, whether it was the consideration of an ordinance governing wind turbines in Highland County and Patrick County, or the question of coal as it related to congressional and presidential races in Southwest Virginia.
Since leaving the Roanoke Times, I moderated a panel discussion on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology and wrote a cover story for Roanoke Business magazine about the dueling pressures of natural gas and federal regulations on the coal industry.
Covering the environment blends my life’s two specialities: Journalism and the natural world.
My father taught biology at a community college for more than 30 years, and I majored in wildlife biology, working several years in the field before ultimately making a career shift to journalism.
I interned at High Country News, which takes a big-picture approach to land issues in the western United States, before spending my newspaper years working in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.
I now work for a nonprofit organization that focuses on small-scale mountain agriculture while continuing to closely follow environmental issues and trends in the Appalachian Mountains and beyond.
I cut my teeth covering Franklin County, Va., which sits at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Southside Virginia. The county’s geographic diversity meant that it shared many of the larger-scale issues affecting greater Appalachia, which gave me a chance to cover many of the stories I craved, at least in miniature. The county includes: a bedroom community for Roanoke metropolitan region; a resort lake that has attracted a wave of retirees and second-home owners; a fading tobacco industry; cattle-ranching; a southern courthouse culture; a small college town; a heritage of moonshining and racing; and a connection to the textile and furniture manufacturing industries of Southside Virginia and Piedmont North Carolina.
More recently I moved to Floyd County, where I maintain close contact with traditional farmers, along with organic growers, new-wave homesteaders and back-to-the-landers who moved here in the ’60s and ’70s.
Politics seems to like me quite a bit, even if the feeling is not quite mutual.
While covering Franklin County, Va., in 2005, I was assigned to a state house race being used by colorful political consultant Dave “Mudcat” Saunders as a laboratory for the book, “Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ‘em Out.”
Coverage of that campaign led Roanoke Times management to shift me to the Roanoke City beat, covering what was at the time a divided, back-stabbing council (one councilman called the others “thugs” who hated democracy) and acting as the lead political reporter for western Virginia. Over the next five years I covered a volatile city government, Virginia’s role as a battleground state in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, two U.S. Senate races and the 2010 Republican wave election.
My roots in the mountains of Virginia run deep. My mother’s family has lived in the Alleghany Highlands for centuries. I’m directly descended from the Robinsons, who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War, as well as running a stagecoach station and post office between Covington and Hot Springs.
My time away from the Blue Ridge Mountains only helped to give me added perspective and a better grasp of the issues facing the region. Much of my focus since entering the field of professional journalism has been aimed at better understanding and telling the stories of these mountains and their people.
I am passionately interested in continuing to learn, think and write about the past, present and future of Appalachia.
I’m part of a generation that grew up with only three television channels but has witnessed the widespread distribution of the Internet and mobile technology.
Through my work at the Roanoke Times and as a freelance journalist, I’ve been able to speak to a number of technology innovators and leaders. As a political reporter, I was ahead of the mainstream media curve when it came to reporting on the Stop Online Piracy Act, which sparked a massive online protest and one-day blackout of Wikipedia and other sites in early 2012.
Since leaving the Roanoke Times late that year, I’ve only become more interested in the business of technology and has cultivated sources in the thriving tech community that has grown around Virginia Tech and made the New River Valley a destination for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
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