panelist bios 2017

Beau Cribbssmall.jpeg Beau Cribbs is a [recovering] political consultant-turned comedy writer who has ghostwritten comedic speeches and jokes for some of the most prominent elected officials in the United States, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe, Julian Castro and Mark Warner. For the last three years, he has hosted and produced his own live late-night talk show called ‘RVA Tonight with Beau Cribbs,’ which has twice been voted Best Comedy Show in Richmond. Over the years, Beau has been covered in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Politico Magazine, CNN, Gawker and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, among others. He hates writing about himself in the third-person. 
W. Wat Hopkins is a professor of communication at Virginia Tech, where he teaches communication law, cyberspace law and magazine writing.  He has written several books on legal topics, including Mass Communication Law in Virginia.  He was an original member of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council and is a member of the board of directors of VCOG.  In 2010 he was the Roy H. Clark Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in 2015 he received the Dorothy Bowles Award for Service from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.  His article on the Rolling Stone case is soon to be published by the Appalachian Journal of Law.
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Jonathan Jones is an open government advocate, educator and attorney. Since 2013, he’s served as the director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition, where he regularly helps citizens, journalists and government officials better understand the state’s sunshine laws. He also is an instructor at Elon University’s School of Communications, where he teaches media law and media writing. Jones previously worked as a prosecutor in Durham, N.C. and as a reporter for newspapers in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. He is also serves on the N.C. Press Foundation’s board of directors.

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Shelley Kimball, Ph.D., teaches media law at The George Washington University and the University of Florida. Her research specialization is state-level open government provisions, specifically the interactions between requesters and records professionals. She is a member of the board of directors of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

BobLewisSMALL.jpg Bob Lewis fills dual roles as a media relations professional for McGuireWoods. He is senior manager for media relations, leading the PR team for the firm of nearly 1,100 lawyers in 23 offices worldwide. He is also a senior advisor with the firm’s full-service public affairs subsidiary, McGuireWoods Consulting, helping clients meet their business goals through communications strategies. Before joining McGuireWoods in 2013, Bob was a journalist for 35 years, 28 of them with The Associated Press in Ohio, Indiana and Virginia. Based in Richmond, he oversaw statewide coverage for several years as AP’s Virginia news editor before focusing on politics and government beginning in 2000 as an AP Political Writer. He served two terms as president of the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and was one of POLITICO’s “50 Politicos to Watch” for the 2012 election.

Robin McCormick is the City of Hampton’s communications strategist, leading a team that provides information about city services, issues, events, citizen engagement opportunities and news about Hampton to residents and media. We manage the city's website, television station, e-newsletters, and social media accounts. Hampton has repeatedly ranked in the Top 10 Digital Cities and has won awards for citizen engagement, including being one of 7 finalists in Harvard’s Innovations in Government Awards this year. Robin’s career switch came in 2011 after 30 years with the Daily Press in various roles -- reporter, copy desk, various editor roles and startup ventures, and managing editor.

Craig_T_Merritt small.jpeg Craig T. Merritt is a partner in the Richmond law firm Christian & Barton, LLP. His practice focuses on the litigation of complex business and intellectual property disputes, representation of media clients in a variety of matters, and antitrust law. He has represented Virginia publishers and broadcasters in defamation defense, FOIA and court access matters, and the protection of reporters’ and editors’ rights. Craig was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 2009, an honor that recognizes exceptional achievement in the field of mass communication. Craig is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a former president of the Bar Association of the City of Richmond, and serves on his firm’s Executive Committee.
Newsome.jpg Cherise Newsome serves as the Public Information Officer for Portsmouth Public Schools in Portsmouth, Virginia. She is the FOIA Officer for the school division, and she also manages communications and media relations, among other tasks. Prior to joining the school division in October 2016, Cherise worked for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper for 11 years. She covered education, city government and community news, among other beats. She’s been recognized by the Virginia Press Association for her coverage, and she also received a Media Award from the Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education. Cherise, her husband, and their children live in Norfolk.
  Jim Nolan has served as Communications Director and Press Secretary for City of Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney since January. He spent the previous 25 years as an award-winning journalist in New York, Philadelphia and Richmond, most recently at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where he spent the majority of his 12 years there on the political beat covering the state legislature, three governors and the Virginia’s congressional delegation. A former president of the Virginia Capital Correspondents Association, Jim successfully negotiated the return of the capital press corps to the floor of the Virginia Senate in 2016 and the subsequent retirement of Jeff Schapiro’s Senate gallery binoculars.
SorenesenHeadshot.JPG Megan Rhyne is the executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and has worked for VCOG is some capacity since 1998. Her interest in FOIA began when she was an intern at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, where -- as a law student who hadn't even heard of FOIA -- she was given a 12-inch thick compendium of state laws and directed to answer callers' questions on open records and open meetings. It is a safe to say her knowledge of Virginia's FOIA is considerably better than it was 25 years ago.
Spencer.jpg Hawes Spencer earned a degree in economics and urban studies at Trinity University and went on to found and operate two newsweeklies in Charlottesville, Virginia. As the editor of the Hook, his staff delivered 149 awards from the Virginia Press Association during its ten-year run. Three times, his staff took home the Association's top honor, the Journalistic Integrity and Community Service Award, most recently for the newspaper's coverage of the June 2012 ouster and subsequent reinstatement of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan. His work has been published in such places as Time, the New York Post, NPR, and the New York Times. He is a regular contributor to Richmond-based NPR affiliate WCVE and teaches journalism at Virginia Commonwealth University.
stowe.jpg Michael Stowe is Virginia Tech’s Director of Media Relations. He leads a team focused on promoting the university’s faculty expertise and research. Michael came to the university in 2015 after a 23-year career in journalism. He worked as the managing editor of The Roanoke Times and from 2007-2015. He also worked as a reporter, copy editor, metro editor, bureau chief, sports editor, business editor and assistant managing editor. He’s a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and a former board member for the Virginia Press Association and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. When he’s not at work, Michael enjoys running, backpacking, canoeing, and other outdoor adventures with his wife and two daughters.