Cardinal News reporter Megan Schnabel interviews Buchanan County supervisor Trey Adkins after last year's flood in Hurley. Credit: Photo by Lakin Keene

Cardinal News journalists were named as finalists Thursday by the Institute for Nonprofit News in this year’s Nonprofit News Award contest.

Cardinal News is a finalist in the medium division for the Community Champion Award for its coverage of last year’s flood in the Buchanan County town of Hurley. A virtual awards ceremony will be held Sept. 21.

By the numbers: Roanoke MSA 

  • Population: 315,389
  • Median age: 43.5
  • Median Household Income: $64,596
  • Unemployment rate: 3%

Source: U.S. Census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The entry, “When a flood devastated a forgotten, isolated town,” includes news stories by reporters Megan Schnabel and Markus Schmidt and commentary by editor Dwayne Yancey.

“I’m incredibly proud of the staff we’ve put together. We told people that if they supported us that we would put together an all-star team of journalists to tell the stories in Southwest and Southside that weren’t being told, and this nomination validates that,” Yancey said.

Schnabel’s first story appeared several months after a storm brought major flooding and mudslides to Hurley and destroyed portions of the Appalachian coal-mining community. Much of the debris – crushed houses, mangled bridges – had been hauled away, but residents who needed a place to live were largely fending for themselves, staying with family or in RVs parked on their property.

At least one family had squeezed their five kids into the small portion of their house that remained habitable and were living on site as they tried to rebuild.

FEMA twice denied financial assistance to homeowners, saying that the damage wasn’t bad enough to warrant the help. Yet few outside Buchanan County knew, until Cardinal News wrote about it.

A member of the region’s legislative delegation has credited Cardinal News’ exposure of
the devastation with his ability to gain more than $11 million in state aid.

Cardinal News has continued to follow the story and will have a story on Tuesday that
marks the first anniversary of the storm and explores the challenges that the community has faced in rebuilding.

Cardinal News began publishing in September of last year as a nonprofit, online news organization dedicated to telling the stories of Southwest and Southside Virginia so that our communities and the people living in them would no longer be forgotten in the state’s political and economic centers.

 “To be recognized by such an important organization as the Institute for Nonprofit News so early in our existence for doing exactly what we set out to do – champion our communities – is both rewarding and validating,” said Luanne Rife, executive director. “I cannot adequately express how proud I am of our staff and their exceptional talent.”

As a nonprofit, Cardinal, modeled similarly to public broadcasting, relies solely on donations to pay for its quality journalism.

The Institute for Nonprofit News represents hundreds of independent, nonpartisan news organizations that are dedicated to high standards in journalism provided as a public service. The Nonprofit News Awards, or INNYs, honor excellence in journalism, leadership and community service across the field of nonprofit news.