Couple growing RVANews into local information hub

By Phil Riggan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As large media outlets are shrinking in Richmond, a husband and wife team is helping re-energize the little guys through a website focused on community news.

Operating out of their Uptown offices near the VCU campus, Ross and Valerie Catrow are the driving forces behind RVANews. The website started two years ago as an aggregator for the growing list of community news sites in Richmond.

"John Murden put out a call that there needed to be more community news sites," Ross said. "He wanted more news sites across more neighborhoods, and they all started popping up."

Murden is the editor for the Church Hill People's News and is considered one of the leaders of the community news websites movement.

"All this stuff is kind of slipping under the radar of large media people in town so it's nice to be able to cover that," Ross said.

The idea for RVANews came out of the RVAblogs mold and has evolved into a more comprehensive news provider -- a hub for readers to find news from all the local community sites.

"We've added over time a lot of original content -- columns, event calendar, restaurant directory," Ross said.

Valerie is the main site editor and she coordinates all the people that contribute to RVANews, including its popular collection of bloggers.

"That's one thing that we've tapped into with the columns," Valerie said. "We've been able to feel out who people care about in Richmond."

Their blogroll includes "The Bopst Show," "GWAR," and thecheckoutgirl's "100 Bad Dates."

"GWAR, Dave Brockie writes that one and it's basically an account of his life," Valerie said. "He's had a crazy life; he's kind of a crazy guy."

Chris Bopst is also a member of GWAR. If you don't know, GWAR is a legendary Richmond metal group that currently bills themselves as the "world's only openly extra-terrestrial band."

Thecheckoutgirl is something of social media icon in Richmond and claims she "writes anonymously so as not to break her poor dad's heart." Valerie says thecheckoutgirl came to RVANews with the idea of 100 Bad Dates and they "just ran with it."

"Thought she was funny, she's a talented writer, we knew people cared about what she had to say because she's developed this ... almost brand in town," Valerie said.

RVANews does have a small news staff, and Ross and Valerie agree that they attempt to objectively cover what's interesting and timely and what will generate interest on the site.

"I think you'll find that with the nature of our site you basically just have to put the facts out there, and the readers will give you more than enough opinion in the comments," she said.

RVANews takes contributed material from the public including restaurant and movie reviews. One of the most popular features is the Picture of the Day.

"It's just a way to give people a chance to contribute to the site because it seems that if they have ownership, they are invested in it," she said.

The couple met at Clover Hill high school in southern Chesterfield County and have been married for six years.  They are used to spending plenty of time together.

"We have common goals in all those things, common goals with RVANews," Valerie declared. "As husband and wife, and as parents, so I think we keep that in mind pretty well."

For more on RVANews see the link to the website at right.

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