A message from Cardinal News board president Luanne Rife:

We have some good and important news to announce. Cardinal News is one of 30 news organizations around the country that has been accepted into a “reader revenue accelerator” program sponsored by Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook.

This is a nine-month virtual training program run by Blue Engine Collaborative, which is led by Tim Griggs, who previously was executive editor of the Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News, spent five years with the New York Times working on their digital products, and then was publisher of The Texas Tribune, one of the nation’s most famous nonprofit news sites. Now with Blue Engine, he works with media companies on growing online readers and revenue. Other trainers include industry veterans with digital experience who have worked for the Chicago Tribune, the Salt Lake City Tribune, New York Magazine and Glacier Media in Vancouver. Meta/Facebook pays for the program but Blue Engine runs it. Since its founding in 2018, this program has trained more than 400 online publishers around the world.

Executive director and editor Dwayne Yancey and I will be the “students” in this program, which we’re told involves both training and, yes, homework. We’ll be joined from time to time by board members Debbie Meade and Chris Turnbull and members of our marketing team at Foxglove Marketing in Roanoke. At the end of it, we hope to come out with a better understanding of how to grow both readers and revenue online. Oh, and there’s this: Through the classroom and coaching part of the program that runs through March, we will identify a path to build a new sustainable revenue stream. We will then receive a $50,000 grant to develop that project during the following six months.

We feel especially fortunate to have been selected for this program. This particular cohort includes some of the best-known news sites in the country, ones that we looked to for guidance during our startup phase. Among them: The New Bedford Light in Massachusetts, featured earlier this year in a New York Times story about the rise of online news sites. You can find the full list (and more information) here. We appear to be the newest site on the list.

An interesting back story: Facebook recruited us to apply for this program which, we’ll confess, we were not familiar with. But Facebook was familiar with us. One of the first stories we published was about a pilot program to expand broadband in Grayson County and how Facebook was part of that effort. People at Facebook saw that story and encouraged us to apply. It didn’t hurt that the program director is a Hokie. Now we have the official word that we’re in. We think this is a really big validation of the work we’re doing.