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RVA’s Got Issues to fill local government knowledge gap

Rich Meagher standing outside the VPM Sesame Street office in a blue collared shirt and gray-ish sport coat
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Rich Meagher, a Randolph-Macon College professor, is the host of a new VPM podcast.

A new podcast produced by VPM focuses on Richmond-area local government and community issues. Rich Meagher, a professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College, hosts RVA’s Got Issues — a biweekly show that drops on Wednesday.

VPM News Features Editor Whittney Evans spoke with Meagher about what he hopes to accomplish with the new podcast.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Whitney Evans: Rich Meagher, you're a political science professor first and foremost. You must have some sort of clue about what people need or what young people are looking for, in terms of how to be more involved and how to be more in the know.

Rich Meagher: Yeah, I think young people, at least, I think about the students on our campus, they want to be productive, they want to have security. And I think they're also just a little bit overwhelmed and terrified by just the sheer amount of information out there. They don't know what to trust, they don't know what to do about it.

One of the things that I really like to do with students is scale it down. It's one of the reasons I'm so interested in state and, particularly, local politics — it doesn't have to be about these gigantic institutions with millions of people and billions of dollars. It can be about what's going on down the street. It could be about the thing that bugged you or your family when you were growing up. It could be about the public institution, the government agency that most of us spend most of our lives embroiled in, which is your local school system. And people don't think about that.

From my students to people in the community, what I really like most about talking about politics is demystifying it, to bring it down to a human scale, to help them understand not only is this something you can understand and can know about, but you can actually have an impact on it.

Not that we have to write off the national level. I mean, there's important work to do there, too. But I just find it so much easier to understand and to grasp and to get a handle on, and then get your hands dirty in the local level.

What can people expect from this podcast? It's my understanding that it is sort of geared at filling this need. 

I think we are trying to do two things: We're trying to inform and we're trying to inspire. One of the terrible things about doomscrolling is that it just feels so disempowering sometimes. It takes away your energy. And we hope to counter that by not only talking about what's going on here in Richmond and in the surrounding counties, but also what you can do about it.

There are people who are not only knowledgeable and informed about local issues, and can explain to you “What’s the deal with affordable housing?’ Or “What's important to know about public transit and what it does for folks in and around the city?” But also “What should I do next? If I care about this or I just care about making my community stronger and better, what are some of the things that I can do?”

We talk to people who know a lot, but people also like doing really cool things.

Affordable housing is the first episode. What other issues or do you plan to touch on?

What issues don't we plan to talk about, right? Infrastructure, transit, the economy — but also arts and culture. We want people to understand the structures of local government, like “what is a county board supervisor? What is that and what do they do? But also, why is it that we used to have litter campaigns and now we don't seem to anymore?”

Disclosure: VPM News and RVA's Got Issues are both licensed to and distributed by VPM Media Corporation. This interview underwent VPM News' standard editorial practices and was not viewed or edited by station leadership prior to publication.

Questions about this article should be directed to VPM News Director Elliott Robinson and Managing Editor Dawnthea M. Price Lisco.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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