Vanessa chronicled drastic change in large suburban districts that traditionally voted Republican following President Donald Trump's election, including the Women's March on Washington, the rise of The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County and the women up in Dave Brat's grill. Her other political coverage delved into the intersection of elected officials with the criminal justice system, protests and glass ceilings using newspaper archives, research into legal standards, data analysis of public safety records and multimedia engagement with sources.

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.

Richmonders among hundreds of thousands who participated in Women’s March on Washington

WASHINGTON — Alsuin Preis’ heart sank. Her daughter stood in a sea of pink hats and banners proclaiming the power of women and diversity, but looked disappointed and bored. Looking at her daughter’s face, all the questions Alsuin Preis had faced came flooding back. “What was the point?” they asked when she told them she would drive north from Richmond to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. “What would it all accomplish?” So the 44-year-old took a chance.

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.

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.

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.

These will give you a sense of the great work being done — and the variety of fascinating issues around the country. 


David Leonhardt, Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times on 2017 New York Times list of exemplary reads of local journalism across the nation. Vanessa contributed to the article on the deadly clashes in Charlottesville that was named in the list.