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Letter to the Reader

It feels good to be back.

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Dear readers,

Welcome back! We appreciate you holding.

After a three-month absence, I’m "pleased as punch," as my grandmother used to say, to welcome you back to the city’s longest running alternative weekly, just in time for our 40th year of publication.

Today marks the start of a new era for Style Weekly, under the ownership of VPM, as we begin publishing online stories that focus on our vibrant arts, culture and food scene in Richmond. Award-winning photographer, Scott Elmquist, and myself are working to get things up and running over the holidays. We’ve only been back for a little over a week, so stories will ramp up.

But first, I need to impart how grateful we are to be here. A veteran old school investigative reporter and former colleague of mine, whose work I admire, recently told me something that felt like a wonderful compliment. After speaking with the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, he confirmed that it was truly rare for a weekly to survive closure these days. Especially after Alden Global Capital, the “secretive hedge fund gutting journalism” as The Atlantic described it, buys your parent company, The Virginian-Pilot, during its takeover of Tribune Publishing.

Luckily for us, VPM stepped in at the 11th hour for the save.

We love that our new bosses at the Chesterfield County-based nonprofit, which stands for Virginia's home for public media, share our deeply held commitment to community journalism. I want to offer them a sincere thank you for their vision and belief in Style Weekly, as we look forward to working with them to "use the power of media to educate, entertain, and inspire," as their mission statement reads.

Fans of our annual special issues will be happy to know that many features will remain, such as this week’s Photos of the Year, the upcoming Richmonder of the Year, and the popular Top 40 under 40 issue, next year. So don't forget to bookmark our website (which should get a redesign in the future) and like or follow our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Also, I need to seriously thank all the amazing folks who have worked at Style over the years, many of them still friends, who helped establish its reputation for in-depth profiles, vibrant photojournalism, arts and food coverage, and uniquely Richmond tales. There’s a reason why a tiny handful of us stood our ground over the last few years, turning down buyout offers from Alden. We continued to fight for this publication and this city, never missing an issue, because of our belief in the need for more community voices, not less. We wanted to honor the hard work of those who made Style Weekly a local institution.

Having grown up in Richmond, I snagged copies of Style Weekly (as well as ThroTTle) at Stuffy's Subs, where I worked on the sandwich line in the mid-'80s, when I was 15. After college and traveling some, I settled into a job for a weekly in Northern California during the mid-'90s. That’s when I began hearing that print newspapers would be gone in a couple years. I've pretty much heard the same gloomy prediction every year since. Yet somehow, 25 years later, Style was the first paper I’ve worked for to be shuttered, and only after the first year of a devastating global pandemic. My point being, the future is not decided; and not everything shiny, faster or new is an improvement. There are hybrid models and other ways to keep local journalism alive, and VPM and Style will be exploring them.

Those who care about local journalism already know that Lee Enterprises, owner of The Richmond Times-Dispatch and Roanoke Times, among many others, is beginning its own sordid tango with Alden. If you don’t like the Gordon Gekko wannabes of the world determining the fate of your democracy, repeat this mantra after us: Support local, independent community journalism -- now, more than ever.

Or you might find yourself singing that old soul song by William Bell, "You don’t miss your water, ‘til your well runs dry.” It’s getting awfully thirsty out there, folks.

Finally, we want to thank you, our longtime readers, for your support over the years and for keeping us on our toes. We’re thrilled to be back again to embrace the awesome responsibility, the privilege and the joy of telling your stories.