Owen FitzGerald

Journalism Portfolio

How Virginians are going solar, powered by national program

RICHMOND, Va. — Joy Loving bought a Prius in 2012. The purchase was the first of two investments she said she made in a personal effort to save money and reduce her carbon footprint. The second: go solar.

After converting her home to solar energy, Loving began leading solar cooperatives with members of her Harrisonburg community who also were interested in going solar. As rooftop solar systems began popping up across the city, people began to notice.

House and Home: the Bright Future of Richmond’s Alt-Rock Scene

What would it look like if a Richmond-based alt-rock band shared a name with one of the nation’s leading home decor and interior design magazines?

Enter House and Home. The band, formed in early 2017, is comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Pat Williams, guitarist and vocalist Joey Grammer, bassist Cole Bennett, and drummer Matt Stumpf.

Re-Educating Richmond: An LGBTQ History Lesson at the VHMC

The Virginia Museum of History and Culture has updated their signature exhibit titled “The Story of Virginia” to include pieces from the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement. The enhancements consist of documents and memorabilia from VHMC’s growing LGBTQ historical archive.

The updates to the exhibit, which were announced on September 24, include a painting from Houston-based celebrity artist Jumper Maybach, depicting the Virginia Capitol. Maybach is a clown character and abstract painter created by abstract painter Ben Workman, who is openly gay. He has created two pieces for Virginia’s LGBTQ community. One is currently in the VHMC exhibit, while the other is on display in Mayor Levar Stoney’s office.

Operation Fix It “Rolls” Out Relief for Richmond’s Homeless

Recently, three Richmond-area businesses joined forces to create “Operation Fix It” — a small business initiative that organized a donation of over 1,000 rolls of paper towels to a local shelter.

HomeAgain is a Richmond-based organization that helps families and individuals experiencing homelessness secure and maintain housing. Paper towels, along with other basic household items, are usually budgeted items that HomeAgain pays for out of pocket. But 91 cents of every dollar donated to the organization goes directly to their housing programs, so every donation they receive helps them focus on funding those programs.

Simple and Soulful: Penny and Sparrow Evolve with Sixth Album, Finch

If you’ve never heard Andy Baxter sing while Kyle Jahnke plays guitar and sings harmony, you’ve been missing out.

On the surface, that’s really all there is to Penny and Sparrow, an indie-folk duo from Austin, Texas. Throughout their time together, the duo have created countless beautiful tracks, often backed by soft keyboard, small groups of stringed instruments, and the occasional drum kit. But so much more than that, Penny and Sparrow’s music is defined by the tear-jerkingly honest and often heartbreaking lyrics Baxter and Jahnke bring to each and every song.

Built For Love: The 2019 Richmond Tattoo, Arts & Music Festival

Richmond is a tattoo mecca — this has become an undeniable reality.  So why would it be that a city so renowned for its tattoo culture would find itself struggling to gather artists and fans under the same roof?

“Prior to us taking over the convention, I think they might have had 1,000 people coming through the door,” said Jesse Smith, who, along with Kenny Brown, took over running the Richmond Tattoo Art & Music Festival four years ago. “I think we doubled the numbers the first year. So it grew substantially, and every year since then we’ve gotten more and more people through the door.”

NAACP Sues Hanover County Over Confederate School Names

The Hanover County chapter of the NAACP is suing the county and its school board over the names of two schools named after Confederate leaders.

The lawsuit states that the names of the schools — Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School — violate African American students’ protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The NAACP believes the names also violate students’ First Amendment protection from “compelled speech.” For example, the lawsuit suggests that wearing uniforms donning the schools’ names and mascots forces students to engage in speech they do not approve of or agree with. Lee-Davis’ mascot is the “Confederates,” and Stonewall Jackson’s mascot is the “Rebels.”

Northam signs proclamation recognizing victims of violent crimes

RICHMOND — Gov. Ralph Northam signed a proclamation Tuesday declaring April 7-13 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Northam emphasized that it is important to treat crime victims with fairness, dignity and respect.

“We have come a long way in understanding the needs of victims since Virginia’s Code was amended to include victims’ rights in 1995,” Northam said. “Victim advocates make it possible for those affected by crime to begin healing, and Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a tremendous opportunity to recognize the important work of the dedicated professionals that serve victims of crime, helping them to access critical support and reclaim their lives.”

Forget points. What if March Madness focused on graduation rates?

RICHMOND – March Madness has historically been a season of underdogs and upsets. But what would the brackets look like if teams in the tournament were pitted against each other using the graduation rates for their men’s basketball players?

Some college teams may be great at finishing close games, but their players aren’t so successful at finishing their degrees.


Panelists at VCU “blackface” event say journalists must do more to call out racism

Politicians, journalists, educators, voters — whose responsibility is it to combat racism, and where do they start?

Hundreds gathered in the Virginia Commonwealth University Commons Theater Monday evening to tackle that question. The discussion “Blackface, the Scandal and the Media: A Discussion about Racism in Virginia,” featured VCU journalism professors and Richmond-area journalists.

“You must do this study of the dead to later study the living,” said Clarence Thomas, an associate professor of journalism at VCU. Thomas and the panelists emphasized the importance of knowing the history behind blackface in the media.

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