Selected Stories

“The longtime link between beer and politics”
For: All About Beer
Keywords: Beer. Politics. Business.
Backstory: Whether it’s smoothing the way for legislative compromise, tweaking laws to encourage the growth of small breweries or a brewer choosing to run for office, beer and politics share a close link. Both, after all, are based in relationships.

“Listen to Anna & Elizabeth’s spooky new take on any old Appalachian muder ballad”
For: Noisey
Keywords: Music. Stories.
Backstory: The story sounds like it could be the plot of a horror film, but it’s really a tune that’s been handed down for more than four centuries. Anna & Elizabeth talk about how they choose their songs and why these grim old ballads have haunted the mountains for so long.

“Craft brewers join the fight against natural gas pipelines”
For: Grist
Keywords: Energy. Environment. Beer.
Backstory: A growing number of breweries in the craft beer sector are speaking out on environmental issues, partiuclary those that affect their most important ingredient: clean water. Two breweries in Nelson County, Virginia, take different approaches to a recent proposal to build an interstate natural gas transmission pipeline.

“Do Democrats need a Bubba strategy?”
For: Politico Magazine
Keywords: Politics.
Backstory: Dave “Mudcat” Saunders built his name on Mark Warner’s successful 2001 campaign for governor, which included sponsoring a NASCAR truck at Martinsville, appearances by Ralph Stanley and a robust “Sportsman for” effort built around gun rights. Thirteen years later, it seems almost quaint. I looked at the Democrats’ recent issues courting rural voters and asked whether there’s a future for the so-called Bubba Strategy.

“S. Vance Wilkins, ex-Va. House speaker, plans a comeback — for himself and the state GOP”
For: Washington Post
Keywords: Politics.
Backstory: I considered a political comeback attempt by Vance Wilkins, who became Virginia’s first Republican speaker of the House of Delegates in 2000 who resigned only two years later amid claims he’d sexually harassed a former staffer. After 12 years holed away in his Amherst home, Wilkins re-emerged to run for a leadership stake among Republicans in Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s home district.

“Virginia in the Vanguard”
For: Delta Sky Magazine
Keywords: Business. Technology. Higher Education.
Backstory: This business profile of the Roanoke Valley and New River Valley looks at how economic developers are using higher education, outdoor amenities and a supportive entrepreneurial environment to attract businesses both homegrown and international.

“Regional Revival: Tech sectors helping to rebuild Roanoke area’s economy”
For: Virginia Business
Keywords: Business. Technology. Agriculture.
Backstory: This community profile of the Roanoke Valley and New River Valley tries to encompass the various aspects of the region’s economy, from manufacturing to retail to real estate. It also includes a glance at southwest Virginia’s growing craft beer and local food sectors.

“Roanoke vs. Asheville: Some people think that granola crunching, craft beer brewing, artsy tourist town bests Big Lick every time. Some people are wrong.”
For: Roanoke Business
Keywords: Business. Blue Ridge.
Backstory: This cover story takes the perceptions of residents in Roanoke and turns them inside out, looking at what the two Blue Ridge sister cities do right and what they do wrong. Roanoke Mayor David Bowers liked it so much he referenced parts of it in his State of the City speech.

“A Downtown Evolution: How private developers are challenging stereotypes, expanding boundaries and changing the perception of Roanoke’s city center.”
For: The Roanoke Times
Keywords: Real estate. Redevelopment.
Backstory: I served as the lead reporter on a series that was delivered to readers as a special “pullout” section. It examined the redevelopment and reinvention of downtown Roanoke through the use of historic tax credits, which jumpstarted the creation of a new residential neighborhood in the heart of the city.

“Goodlatte, critics differ sharply on Stop Online Piracy Act: The lawmaker says the Stop Online Piracy Act offers more tools to protect copyrights, but some say it’s too broad.”
For: The Roanoke Times
Keywords: Politics. Technology. Business.
Backstory: Another example of reporting ahead of the curve. Most mainstream media outlets didn’t catch onto the SOPA controversy until the Wikipedia blackout on Jan. 18. This story ran the Sunday before, and informed my readers about a local link to controversial legislation that didn’t break down by partisan terms.

“Coal likely to fuel voters’ choice in 9th Congressional District race: The candidates say they want to protect the coal industry, but what do their records suggest?”
For: The Roanoke Times
Keywords: Politics. Energy.
Backstory: Pundits predicted a Republican wave in the 2010 midterms, but few foresaw the defeat of 28-year incumbent Rick Boucher in Virginia’s 9th District. My reporting on the issue of coal during the race signaled that Boucher was in trouble well before he was actually defeated. (For more, here’s the election post-mortem and a look back at Boucher’s career on Capitol Hill.)

“Mason’s Perfect Day in Roanoke, Virginia”
Keywords: Travel. Feature.
Backstory: A college friend of mine, Celeste Gottfried, requested a feature on a “perfect day” in Roanoke, where I lived from 2003 until 2011. I took up the challenge, profiling Roanoke’s best(?) features on a site that had previously included Vienna, New York City, Paris and Singapore.

“A buyer’s market: As sales slow, real estate agents are telling sellers to price their properties realistically. The number of homes on the market has increased while the sales volume has declined.”
For: The Roanoke Times
Keywords: Real estate. Business.
Backstory: An early warning sign of the impending real estate bubble at Smith Mountain Lake, which completely burst a year later as part of a national trend.

“Prawn gambit: A Franklin County tobacco farmer attempts to diversify his produce with freshwater shrimp.”
For: The Roanoke Times
Keywords: Agriculture. News feature.
Backstory: Good old-fashioned beat reporting turned up this story of a colorful tobacco farmer looking for a new market after the demise of the longstanding quota system.

“Million-dollar mystery persists years after Roanoker’s death: A New Hampshire museum is offering a $1 million reward for a missing Liberty nickel, one of five in the world.”
For: The Roanoke Times
Keywords: News feature. Investigative.
Backstory: The editor who assigned me this story warned it could turn out to be a “wild goose chase.” Instead it helped unearth a nickel that had been missing for more than 40 years.

“Kitty Cornered: Why the man who collected more than 200 dead and living cats thinks he’s done nothing wrong.”
For: Coast Weekly (now Monterey County Weekly)
Keywords: Crime. Investigative.
Backstory: I was assigned to cover the case of a man who was sentenced to 9 months in Monterey County for animal cruelty. As I worked out the reporting, however, I uncovered a deeper story that started with a homeless man and an underground network of cat caregivers.