Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute stories, photos and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.
Over the years, CNS staffers have won more than 45 national, regional and state awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program and the Virginia Press Association. In addition, CNS received the 2019 Good Government Award from the Richmond First Club, a 100-year-old civic organization. The club recognized the CNS students as “journalists covering Virginia politics with integrity and energy for over 20 years.”
CNS operates as a three-credit course (MASC 475). We now offer the class twice a year and make it repeatable to offer students more experience and offer clients more content. The fall class focuses on election coverage while the spring session centers on the Virginia General Assembly session. Students’ bylined stories are published by news outlets across Virginia and, thanks to a partnership with The Associated Press, in USA Today, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and other leading news organizations. In the class, students develop portfolios that have helped them land jobs at newsrooms ranging from community dailies and weeklies to CNN.
Wilma Wirt, who has since retired from the Robertson School faculty, established CNS in 1994 for two reasons:
- To give VCU’s journalism students an opportunity to actively cover and write about the Virginia General Assembly.
- To give the state’s weekly, twice-weekly and thrice-weekly newspapers better access to the legislature — something Wirt deemed important in the everyday lives of all Virginians.
CNS in the News
CNS has been featured on “This Week in Richmond,” which is hosted by state Capitol veteran David Bailey and airs on WCVE, Central Virginia’s PBS station. In February 2019, the program featured CNS editors Brandon Shulleeta and Jeff South and reporters Kathleen Shaw and Kaytlin Nickens:
In February 2018, CNS editors Karen McIntyre and Jeff South, as well as reporters Jessica Wetzler, Logan Bogert and Alexandra Sosik, appeared on the program:
The Winter 2018 issue of Virginia Capitol Connections magazine included an article about CNS.
The program was featured in VCU News in February 2017: “Making headlines: VCU journalism students are covering the General Assembly for 90 news outlets and feeding stories to the Associated Press”
The same month, WVTF / Radio IQ aired a story about CNS: “VCU Students Fill Journalism Void in Richmond”
The program also received favorable publicity when we struck a content-sharing agreement in 2013 with the CNS program at the University of Maryland: “Virginia Commonwealth University Partners with University of Maryland to Expand Capital News Service”
In 2004, CNS was featured in an article in Presstime, the magazine of the Newspaper Association of America. In the article, Pam Lettie, then editor of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, praised CNS, saying: “It helps our editorial content because we don’t have staff in Richmond full time, so the students can be our eyes and ears, giving us localized stories specific to our area.” Here is the Presstime article.