Apr 12, 2024 - News

Richmond writer ends Good Morning, RVA newsletter

A man in a bike helmet wearing a shirt that says Ride all the bikes

Ross Catrow, one time author of "Richmond's premiere zoning and rezoning newsletter," forever lover of bikes. Image: Courtesy of Ross Catrow

After eight years writing Good Morning, RVA, "Richmond's premiere zoning and rezoning newsletter," citizen journalist and author Ross Catrow is calling it quits, he wrote in Friday's edition.

Why it matters: For nearly 20 years and through three iterations of RVA-branded outlets, Catrow has been an essential part of the local media landscape.

State of play: Catrow is taking a job with the city's Office of Strategic Communications and Civic Engagement and wrote that his professional transition makes it the perfect time to hit pause — and reclaim his morning sleep.

Flashback: Catrow's start in local news came in 2005 when he and his then-web design company business partner launched RVABlogs, an aggregator of the city's growing community blogs.

  • RVANews came two years later to better organize what had grown from a few dozen local blogs to a few hundred and to add some original reporting to the mix.
  • By 2016, RVANews had grown to a staff of five, including a full-time reporter and editor, but ultimately Catrow found the local news business model wasn't sustainable.
  • He shut it down in June 2016 and vowed to continue writing the weekday morning newsletter borne out of all of it: Good Morning, RVA.

And since then, Catrow has done just that — woken at 5:15am every weekday morning to hammer out a bright morning newsletters to his readers to help explain his passion issues: transit, city zoning and government meetings, biking and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, plus jokes!

In celebration of Catrow's newsletter retirement, we asked him a few questions.

  • Here's our Q&A with him, edited for length and style.

Q: What did you love most about writing GMRVA — and what will you miss the most?

A: I honestly just love learning and thinking about how cities work — especially our own city — and I don't really know how to stop. I mean, there's a 100% chance I will continue to read all of the PDFs and listen to all of the meetings even though I don't have an email newsletter to dump my thoughts into.

As for what I'll miss the most, definitely the kind remarks and thoughtful questions folks send me.

Q. What do you think is the best thing about Richmond?

A. Does the branzino at Edo's Squid count? Other than that, probably Richmond's perfect mid-sizedness.

It's big enough to support weird ideas and fun projects, and small enough to meet a lot of the people who can help you make those projects a reality.

Q. What's the city's biggest challenge?

A. Racism — specifically the way systemic racism impacts literally everything from housing to transportation to zoning to the way the state has structured the rules for independent cities.

Q. What's been your workflow for writing it over the past eight years?

A. Every morning, I would wake up around 5:15 am, make a cup of Earl Grey tea (hot) and get to work reading the news.

I would write everything fresh that morning — for whatever reason my brain has a couple very productive hours before 8am.

After I finished the written copy, I'd proof it (poorly), send it out as an email, record it as a podcast, and post it on all the various social medias.

Q. What's your local news diet?

A. Oh, a bunch of things: VPM, RTD, Richmond BizSense, Virginia Mercury, and the RVA subreddit. I read three emails in the morning too, QZ, Axios Richmond, and RIC Today

Q. Favorite local bike ride loop?

A. Journeyman's Adventure Company down in Shockoe!

Q. You've held a couple of big-deal day jobs over the last few years — what were they?

A. I was the executive director at RVA Rapid Transit, a local public transit advocacy nonprofit. Then, for the last four years, I've been the director of communications at the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts — let me tell you, it was a fascinating time to handle communications for public health.

Q. Can you share anything about your new role with the city?

A. It's gonna take me a while to get settled, but I'm excited to help the city share its stories with folks. I'm not sure if you heard, but there's a lot of cool stuff going on: zoning, rezoning, budget season!

Q. Anything you want to add about Richmond, writing GMRVA and the local news landscape?

A. Read a PDF! Attend a meeting! Honestly, start a newsletter! I'd love to read 50 more newsletters about the city — especially from a bunch of different perspectives that aren't "aging white guy who rides bikes on the Northside." Make sure you send me a link so I can subscribe!

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