The Citizen is an independent source of news for the people of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Our goal is to tell the important and interesting stories that are otherwise un- or under-covered in our community. We will report aggressively and fairly on behalf of everyone who lives here, and will not place any content behind a paywall. The Citizen is funded by local advertisers and readers who support its mission.
We support and make every effort to follow the principles set forth in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
When trying to name this journalistic venture, we wanted something that would underscore our focus on in-depth coverage of local policy, social and cultural issues. We also wanted an inclusive term that does Harrisonburg justice as a growing, evolving and increasingly diverse community – even if we all don’t know each other well yet.
The word citizen has various connotations. Some think it refers only to those with legal paperwork showing they were born in or naturalized to a particular place. A broader definition, though, refers to all inhabitants of a particular place. We embrace the latter understanding in choosing the name The Citizen, to represent all people who live in and around Harrisonburg. We also believe that citizenship comes with inherent responsibilities: getting to know our neighbors, sharing ideas and participating to the fullest extent we can in the democratic process. All of that starts with being informed. And we hope that’s where The Citizen comes in.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being informed.
Who we are
Andrew Jenner, co-founder — Andrew has spent most of his career as a journalist in the Shenandoah Valley, working as a freelancer a decade. He has covered many things for many media outlets, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Roads & Kingdoms, Discover and WMRA. He returned home to Harrisonburg in 2018, after three years living and writing in Brazil. By day, he works in the solar industry.
Ryan Alessi, co-founder — Ryan mostly focused on covering state politics and government in Virginia’s former county of Kentucky from 2003 – 2014. Before that, he was a reporter for the now-defunct Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C. In 2016, he followed his wife to Harrisonburg, where he teaches journalism and media classes at James Madison University. You can reach Ryan at [email protected]
Bridget Manley, partner — Bridget spent most of her adult life working as a morning show producer and reporter for radio stations in Cumberland, Md., and Annapolis, Md., before moving to Harrisonburg eight years ago. When she’s not reporting the news and helping run The Citizen, she’s the manager of operations for Rivercrest Farm and Event Center in Shenandoah, she is a freelance reporter for WMRA, and she also hosts a podcast that shares parenting stories called “Birds In A Tree.”
Randi B. Hagi, senior contributor — Randi has worked in the downtown restaurant scene, nonprofit sector, in horse care and as a freelance writer and photographer since graduating from Eastern Mennonite University in 2014. Much of her writing to date has been published in the Mennonite sphere. She also runs a small muscovy duck egg business out of her “farmette” in Hinton. Hagi’s roots are in West Virginia, but she can’t seem to let go of Rockingham County.
Liesl Graber, contributor — Liesl is an emerging writer on the freelance scene, after spending four years writing for Eastern Mennonite University’s student newspaper The Weather Vane. She graduated from EMU in June 2018 and aspires to use her degree in English and writing studies to craft stories about the city she calls home. Eventually, Liesl wants to get her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and pursue her passion for writing children’s literature.
Bruce Stambaugh, contributor – Bruce is a retired school administrator. He and his wife Neva moved to the Harrisonburg area in 2017 to be near their three grandchildren. Bruce writes is a free lance writer, and enjoys hiking, birding, and photography.
Nicole Hostetter, contributor – Nicole found her way to the Friendly City as an undergraduate at JMU. After graduating with an English degree in 2006, Nicole worked for various news organizations here in the Valley. She pursued her master’s degree in teaching from Mary Baldwin College (’10), and taught public school in the Valley for 5 years before staying home to be a full-time mom. She currently lives in Harrisonburg with her husband and two children and writes as an attempt to figure out what living on this earth is really all about.
Julie Hagy, contributor — Julie Hagy’s writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country, including The Daily Press, Virginian Pilot, The Daily Camera, 5280 Magazine, AAA magazines, Laguna Beach Independent, among others. She runs a Special Education Advocacy & Consulting practice, and is a certified Children’s Yoga Instructor.
Harrison Horst, contributor — Harrison is a freelance writer and podcaster in the thick of his first major podcast project, called “Shifting Climates.” Though his degree is in sociology, Harrison found himself drawn to communications in college and ended up editing his school newspaper, The Weather Vane, at Eastern Mennonite University. Originally from central Pennsylvania, Harrison enjoys the pace of life in Harrisonburg but hopes, in the short term, to travel and live in east Asia.
Veronica Petrikas, contributor — Veronica is studying international affairs and economics at James Madison University. She is passionate about how people and politics interact and is constantly curious about the world around her.
For story tips, “Perspective” piece submissions and other inquiries, please contact us at: [email protected].