Top notch reporting on a serious local problem with strong photographs and nice design. Truly a news-driven special section.

Virginia Press Association judge on first place award for Special Section on affordable housing story on Jeff Davis Highway

Special Report: Poverty and Housing Insecurity Along Jefferson Davis Highway

Hundreds of people, including children, call hotels along Jefferson Davis Highway home. Many live among roaches and mold. This months-long investigative project analyzed building inspection and health inspection databases to explore the national affordable housing crisis in this part of the Richmond region. It revealed gaps in local and state oversight that allowed the hotels to remain in poor condition while families became increasingly desperate for a roof over their heads. This package won first place for Special Section from Virginia Press Association.

How the disaster in Charlottesville unfolded, as told by the people who were there

What follows is an account of how the events unfolded, as told by the protesters who massed in opposition, the white nationalists who planned it, the state officials charged with managing it all, and the residents of Charlottesville who watched as their progressive college town descended into chaos. Vanessa contributed to this source-driven article, which was named in 2017 by The New York Times as an example of exemplary local journalism

'A switch got flipped in me': Liberal Women of Chesterfield County steamroll suburban politics

A group that has now been profiled by national publications including The New York Times, The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County formed following President Donald Trump's election. Analysis of voting records and state election data along with personal narratives helped Vanessa show how this group is upending suburban politics in what has been a traditionally red county that Republicans relied on to offset their losses in the population centers of Northern Virginia.

ON THE FARM: Father, son represent different faces of decline in Stafford farmland

U.S. Department of Agriculture data and local real estate records served as the backbone to this story analyzing the causes of the rapidly diminishing farmland in Stafford County and across the nation. It chronicled the story of the Greenlaws, a family straddling the farming and real estate worlds within Stafford County. This story was part of the "On the Farm" series that won first place at the Virginia Press Association, Virginia Farm Bureau's top award and Society of Professional Journalists Dateline Award.

Review of police body cameras could cost localities. But those in charge of reviewing footage don't agree on their responsibilities.

State lawmakers are poised to consider a measure that could cost some localities hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for more attorneys to review police-worn body camera footage. But the prosecutors charged with reviewing the footage don’t agree on their responsibilities. The inconsistency uncovered in this source-driven story through research into legal ethical standards ushered questions of whether the extra lawyers are even necessary. State lawmakers eventually tabled a mandate for more lawyers. The story also raised questions about whether the legal community is ready to handle the changes body cameras cause in trials.

Water woes lead to questions of oversight, concerns over water supply

On Mount Olive Road in central Stafford County, the Pincumbes are known as the family with five wells. Expert voices combined with state water reports, well inspector reports and an analysis of nationwide databases on groundwater well networks revealed flaws in the oversight of water sources and why the Pincumbes problems may be a symptom of an ever-growing problem in Stafford and across the US.

Meet the women who are up in Dave Brat's grill

“He can hold his town hall on the moon,” Preis said, “but us girls all got minivans that hold seven people and we all love a good road trip.” Vanessa conceived, researched, conducted the majority of the interviews and served as the lead writer for this source-driven story that looked at what was happening with women following President Trump's election in what would become key districts in upcoming elections.

Midlothian High water fountain had 27 times more lead than safety limit, testing shows

Every day for the past three years, Helen Trout has filled up her 17-ounce water bottle at a fountain near the cafeteria at Midlothian High School. Then earlier this year, that water fountain in the small commons area stopped flowing. Analyzing water testing reports along with researching health regulations and the history of lead contamination revealed that hundreds of students could be drinking out of unsafe water fountains in part due to lagging regulations that school officials hoped state lawmakers would tighten. Using Excel and other programs, Vanessa created a graphic that mapped the lead levels for local schools.

When elected officials step down early in Chesterfield, those tapped to replace them usually win

State and local election databases, newspaper archives along with Freedom of Information Act requests helped reveal a pattern in a path to success in Chesterfield that county watchdogs, candidates and political observers say is orchestrated by design; a system of patronage that gives an advantage to the unelected officials who’ve been keeping a seat warm until voters can weigh in.

'Who are you people?' the woman asked. 'I'm a fireman,' he replied. Chesterfield Fire and EMS unit works to heal wounds of repeat callers.

“I intend to wear out, not rust out," Leslie “Red” Butler said when Colin McCann from Chesterfield County’s Fire and EMS department and Vanessa visited Butler's house for this story. Statistics on the age-wave and aging-in-place as well as public safety and Census records helped Vanessa dig into the nationwide growth in EMS calls and what a state push to confront this unsustainable rise in calls using prevention programs looked like on a local level.

Excellent story-telling and detail to writing

Virginia Press Association judge

This series highlighted the importance of protecting America's remaining farmland. A must-read for citizens and lawmakers across the nation.

Virginia Press Association judge

... One of the best submissions this year. 

Virginia Press Association judge