DP and Charlottesville Tomorrow Team Up

The Daily Progress will begin carrying Charlottesville Tomorrow’s stories, the two publications announced late Saturday night. No money is changing hands in the agreement. As the newspaper has lost reporters, it’s impacted their ability to have reporters present at meetings of regional government entities. Filling that void has been the privately-funded nonprofit Charlottesville Tomorrow, dedicated to providing neutral coverage of issues pertaining to development and growth in Albemarle County. The newspaper will publish their stories, providing Progress readers original coverage of important news and providing Charlottesville Tomorrow with an instant ten-fold increase in their readership.

Though I haven’t seen much of it for a while, when Charlottesville Tomorrow first started there was some significant push back against the organization from developers and folks aligned with them, who argued that the group was anti-development by virtue of so closely covering the topic. With Charlottesville Tomorrow’s just-the-facts approach to their coverage (DP editor McGregor McCance calls it “accurate, fair and balanced”), it’s tough to see any room for slant. I suspect we’re about to see quite a bit more complaints along those lines, despite that the conservative Progress has seldom had many unkind words for development or growth.

To the extent to which the Progress is relying on the continued generosity of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s donors, this might put the paper in an awkward position. On the other hand, by virtue of being a daily newspaper subject to the whims of a huge media conglomerate in a terrible economy, they’re already in an awkward position—at least this way they’ll be in an awkward position with a dozen more column inches of news every day.

25 thoughts on “DP and Charlottesville Tomorrow Team Up”

  1. Charlottesville Tomorrow takes positions just like the Daily Progress. Brian Wheeler has time and again advocated for the Rivanna Water Authority dam/pipeline water project, which was created by the Nature Conservancy. Charlottesville Tomorrow was founded and is primarily funded by a top person in the Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. This podcast, on WINA with Coy Barefoot, will give you the details and specifics of their advocacy on this issue.


  2. Charlottesville Tomorrow takes positions just like the Daily Progress.

    That doesn’t mean that they’re anything other than neutral in their coverage. The Daily Progress endorsed McCain, Gilmore, and Goode (or so I assume; I can’t remember) for the last election, but I can’t see that has colored their coverage of Obama, Warner, or Perriello. I am a Democrat who has either favored or opposed many bills that have come before the Virginia General Assembly, but I can still run a neutral, open, fair website about the General Assembly.

  3. Certianly you can Waldo, but you also advocate for what you believe in on certain issues. They have taken a position on this issue and are even trying to mislead the public on certain “facts” which you can hear for yourself on the above podcast. Listen and decide for yourself after you read Brian Wheeler’s water paper written, I believe,in support of the Nature Conservancy $200 million or more dam and pipeline. I would not call this a neutral position.

  4. I think maybe I’m not being clear. The reporting of news (X happened in place Y on date Z) is rather different than editorializing (we believe that A should be B for reason C). So long as that line is maintained, such that readers will not be confused (as newspapers do with their opinion pages), I can’t see what’s wrong with that. The Daily Progress has endorsed a multiple felon rather than endorse a Democrat (that was, what, the 2003 Council election?), which makes their editorial page an embarrassment, but there’s no reason why readers should consequently doubt the merits of their reporting on elections.

  5. I concur with the earlier poster; this is just a further degradation of an already suspect local paper.

    I think it takes great faith–almost religious faith — to believe that stories can be written with no agenda seeping into the choice of terms, editorial discretion, and language.

    Is the “nonpartisan” label that the DP chose to apply to Charlottesville Tomorrow an observation/opinion, a claim of the Cville Tom.. organization, or part of a factual story on the merger?

    On growth, local activists from both political parties have played a roll in the explosion —and public subsidization — of new development rights in Albemarle. (particularly evident in Crozet).

    Democrats pride themselves on being green and ‘egalitarian’, supposedly through support of urbanization programs that intensify development in growth areas. Republicans pride themselves on spurring growth and public spending (conservatives love spending and taxes, if it is on development subsidies) on infrastructure, through these same urbanization programs. Different motives; same result.

    With regard to the earlier poster, the leveling of old growth forest at Ragged Mountain has attracted the passions of both political parties in Albemarle. One political party sees a plentiful supply of water to feed a proud ‘new urbanist’ victory. The other political party sees publicly-subsidized pro-business growth. Again, like urbanization, motives differ; results align.

    Charlottesville’s politicians see the loss of Albemarle’s revenue sharing if they dare think independently of Albemarle on the Meadowcreek Parkway or Ragged Mountain, protecting Cville residents dwindling parkland. Could there be a reason why, shortly after Charlottesville’s politicians began to strongly reconsider the water plan, the DP ran a strongly-worded story from county staff questioning revenue sharing? I wonder.

    I do read the DP and Charlottesville Tomorrow (and I occasionally wander in upon this blog).

    However, I read all three sources of information from a perspective of who is behind the stories:

    the DP is staffed by young, poorly-compensated, green sprouts of reporters who wait for Albemarle County’s staff to feed them their next ‘story’; Charlottesville Tomorrow is funded by powerful rural landowners interested in new urbanism’s ability to protect the verdant peacefulness of their ‘environmentally-sound’ rural McMansions; and ‘cville news’ is run by a local Democratic Party activist.

    That’s my editorial perspective. Cville Resident is right. This merger is more of the same, but it is not pretty.

  6. Waldo there is nothing wrong with Charlottesville Tomorrow advocating for the dam/pipeline water plan. What’s wrong is when they claim they are neutral or have not taken a position. Being deceptive in that way hurts the organization that does a tremendous service in podcasting meetings for the community.

    Crozet Resident, thank you for your excellent analysis. Motivation matters and it is important to look at the connections of these various groups. I just found out from reading Rob Schillings excellent blog on the McIntire Recycling Center that the lawyer going after Peter van der Linde, Jonathan Blank is co-chair of the city Democratic Party and as Rob points out, that may be why David Brown is supporting this suit against a private citizen trying to better recycling in the community but whose operation will shut down RSWA .

  7. ‘cville news’ is run by a local Democratic Party activist.

    Really? That’s the label you’ve got for me? I’m pretty sure local Democratic Party activists would complain that I don’t canvass, make phone calls, show up at the meetings, volunteer for candidates or do any, y’know, activist stuff. But let’s pretend that true, that I’m a “local Democratic Party activist.” So what? Who do you want writing your news? People who don’t care? People without perspective? People who, when informed about the facts of a debate, don’t have the ability to determine for themselves which side is correct? (“Did man really land on the moon? Some people say ‘no,’ so there’s no telling!”) People who aren’t invested in the community? Based on your (apparent) logic, the best person to write about Charlottesville would be somebody who doesn’t live here and has no ties to the region.

    Can you name any media outlet anywhere in the world that meets your definition of impartial? Or will you concede that it’s an abstract ideal that can never really exist, the closest to which is a publication where people strive to be fair in spite of being human?

  8. Waldo, I agree we want people like you writing this blog, but it is also important when someone claime to be neutral on an issue to determine if that’s true so one can accurately judge the informaion they are reporting.

  9. Crozet Resident, Old growth forest? Really? So you are saying that forest has not been logged or otherwise altered in 150-500 years?

  10. @Waldo: Because (like you note) it’s impossible to have an author of news without any biases at all, I have no problem with Cvillenews being written by a “local Democratic Party activist.” :-) Look past the bias best you can and read the stories for the facts.

  11. it is also important when someone claime to be neutral on an issue to determine if that’s true so one can accurately judge the informaion they are reporting.

    That is important, but in two very different ways. If somebody claims to be neutral in their reporting, and is not, that is very bad, on that we can absolutely agree. But if somebody claims to be neutral in their editorial stance on a given issue, and is not, that is par for the course for an editorial page. :)

  12. Hi Dirtworshipper, enjoyed talking to you, hope we can do it again.

    According to Dan Bieker there are sections of Ragged Mt. Natural Area with trees well over 100 years old that have never been logged, and the logging that was done was carefully managed and not extensive so some areas have seen no logging. It is a shame that there has never been an on the ground environmental assessment of this area because I do know there are some rare plant species. The Smithsonian has also designated this as a special bird habitat. Please see this link for more about this special natural area just 2 miles from the city that provides wonderful wilderness hiking and an escape from the stresses of city life.


  13. Crozet Resident’s assessment of the motives on both sides of the growth issue is spot-on. You rarely see the PEC or Nature Conservancy fighting critical slopes waivers in the city and urban ring, something that has a huge potential impact of the environment.

    The cynic in me believes that they would gladly sacrifice these areas in order to protect the areas containing the estates of their major donors. There’s a very good reason why the wealthiest portions of our county have had so much success getting historic and environmental protection protected, while other areas are thrown under the bulldozers with nary a peep from the environmental groups.

    That said, I’m incredibly grateful to Brian and Sean for all their hard work on Charlottesville Tomorrow. They are local heroes as far as I’m concerned, and we are the richer for it. But I disagree with CT’s stand on the water issue, which read like a joint PEC/Nature Conservancy position paper. Not saying there’s a conspiracy here, or that they’re not completely above board, just that it was a huge disappointment to read.

  14. Betty, that’s some interesting information. Here’s what you need to actually prove “old growth” from a technical perspective. You need to show that you have several generations of hardwoods, so that one or more generations has reached maturity then died off and fallen and yielded to the next generation. This creates a very specific kind of terrain with big mounds and pits everywhere, and a dense multilayered canopy.

    While hiking there myself (mainly on the trails) it has seemed that while there are old trees, that the forest doesn’t have the qualities of most of the old growth I’ve seen,and certainly not that of virgin forest. (That said, there are significant areas I’ve never walked.) Keep in mind Virginia was pretty much leveled soon after colonists got here, and most old growth remaining was either in inaccessible valleys, or in one exception, part of an estate like Montpelier. In fact, walk Montpelier’s forest, and that should give you a good measuring stick for finding and documenting old growth at Ragged Mountain.

    I’d be willing to walk it too, especially if you have specific areas suggested by the forester as old growth.

  15. Look forward to a hike this Fall DW, and anyone else who would like to go. Will ask Dan Bieker, who teaches a course about trees and birds at PVCC, to lead it. Please leave a message at the website contact info if you would like to go with us.

  16. Waldo you said ” If somebody claims to be neutral in their reporting, and is not, that is very bad, on that we can absolutely agree.” and that’s where I feel the problem lies with CT’s reporting on the water issue. Agree, that they are to be commended for much of the great work they do, but concur with VoR, this chapter in their life is a huge disappointment, and I feel will ultimately damage their reputation permanently.

  17. Betty, sounds good. Just set a date (preferrably on a weekend) with a feww weeks notice and I’ll see what I can do to line up some folks for a proper survey. (Before then, your homework is to hike Montpelier’s forest so that you have a better idea of what you are looking for!) Unfortunately, to detect most rare plants and animals you need at least three surveys at different times of the year (so one in spring would be worthwhile too). We’ll also need GIS data so that we can tell exactly what will be underwater and what will not.

    I suspect though that what Ragged Mountain actually has is mature forest, not old growth per se. That said, it can take only about 50-100 years to go from mature to old growth, and it’s really a continuum. Either way, A good argument can also be made that we should let it become old growth.

    Also, I wish in all this talk of Ragged Mountain that someone would bring up the significant land owned by UVa, including the Observatory Hill area. Am I the only one noticing that UVa is continuing to creep up those mountains? To me, those are probably one of the most important areas to protect, and yet have been barely mentioned by any conservation group.

  18. Dirt Worshiper– agreed on Observatory Hill. It’ll be most interesting to see how that plays out as time goes by. UVA is a powerhouse. Are there any local environmental or conservation groups who would be willing to take them on? Doubtful.

    I’m getting heartily sick of our local government entities being allowed to play fast and loose with our natural resources. I’d make the argument that natural resources are just as important in the urban setting as in the rural setting. There’s no need to rob Peter to pay Paul, as most of the conservation groups and many on the Planning Commission are advocating.

  19. On that I agree; however, I also agree that we do need measures that encourage higher density and decrease sprawl. To reconcile those two notions, you simply can’t manage greenspace the same way in an urban area as you do in a rural area.

    Everyone usually gets it when people talk about higher density, mixed use development. For that model to work you need to also have a cooresponding policy of ecological density so that as residential development goes up, your greenspace has to be managed in such a way to increase the amount of ecosystem services and biological diversity provided over the same area.

    Likewise, because greenspace in urban areas is a finite resource, and because it’s way too easy to see it as “unused space” or “potential infill”, you’ve got to have a solid policy in place that results no net loss of greenspace over time (or better yet, a net increase).

    This is really another area where the high density model applied on 29 has been a dismal failure. It’s all density and no greenspace. You don’t need a 100 ft. buffer on streams, but for goodness sakes we shouldn’t be culverting them either. Instead, we should be daylighting streams and planning them into the developments, as was done effectively by UVa at the Dell.

  20. Regarding density– I disagree that it’s that necessary in EVERY urban area. Something that is a good idea *if done correctly* has been turned into something more resembling a religion with KoolAid-chugging followers. Virtually no one that I know moved to Charlottesville for the density, we moved to get away from increased density. I’ve already lived in Manhattan, thanks. If I want that experience, I’ll move to a real city. Charlottesville provides a much different experience.

    Thankfully, the population of the City hasn’t been increasing that much during the many years I’ve lived here (although Alb Co has). It’s still livable precisely because it’s not packed nose-to-jowl with people. A person can breathe, and tend a garden, and live in an urban area that still has mature trees in the yards, and wonderful wooded areas in neighborhoods. That includes some of our lower income neighborhoods too. If all that changes, we’ll lose a big part of what makes this area livable.

  21. Apologies… my rant probably should have gone under the Growth Study story. Didn’t mean to jack the CT/DP thread!

  22. Voice of Reality, yeah not much to do with the thread (my fault — came from a statement Crozet Resident made about the water supply issue and C-ville Tomorrow.)

    I don’t disagree though. High density is not the panacea for all our growth problems, nor is it the right solution for every situation. For example, building high density mixed use in the middle of a former rural area makes no sense whatsoever. (In fact, some might call it greenwashing…) Promoting density is just one tool in the tool box. The trick is using it correctly and in the appropriate place. For example, big parking lots could easily be redeveloped into high-density mixed use walkable neighborhoods with a net increase in greenspace (via pocket parks, etc.)

    To swing this back on topic… CT has done a great job over the years of bringing the finer points of exactly these kinds of planning issues to the general public. Sure, maybe they have their own slant, but generally they also provide a wealth of information that otherwise might never be available to the average person. I just hope DP utilizes that info effectively…

  23. No problem here with turning parking lots etc in higher density. My blood runs cold at the stuff I hear some people at NDS and on the Planning Commission talking about re increasing density in residential neighborhoods like Belmont etc. They think accessory units should be allowed to be huge and that large yards are the devil’s work.

    Too bad that CT doesn’t do any sort of in-depth hard-hitting investigative journalism. Pity because Brian and Sean would be great guys to do it. Jayson Whitehead used to do really great stuff for the Cville (remember the Wendell Wood/NGIC exposé?). Currently, I guess Hawes is the only game in town for that.

    Don’t imagine we’ll be seeing the DP producing any investigative journalism any time soon.

Comments are closed.