Virginia Mercury



Richmond, VA


Non-Profit Newspaper / Media Outlet


Robert Zullo

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Virginia Mercury is a left-leaning state-focused news website founded in 2018. While it claims to produce non-partisan news coverage, it selects topics of interest for a left-of-center readership and writes them from a left-of-center perspective. 1

It is owned by the left-of-center States Newsroom (formerly Newsroom Network), an outfit that described itself as a “progressive political journalism startup” in a job posting,2 which has opened similar alternative news outlets throughout the United States. 3 Prior to late 2019, the Newsroom Network, the Virginia Mercury, and its sister news entities were all funded, owned and operated by the left-leaning Hopewell Fund, a nonprofit group operated as part of the vast “dark-money” network of left-of-center Arabella Advisors.

The Virginia Mercury focuses on Virginia state government policies including the environment, poverty, immigration, and energy. 4


The Virginia Mercury was founded as an alternative to traditional news outlets that are foundering due loss of circulation and advertising revenues. The new non-profit model the Newsroom Network has instituted does not rely on paid subscriptions or advertising, but is instead reliant on funding from donors like Hopewell Fund, which was the parent organization of States Newsroom and the Virginia Mercury until late 2019. 5

Virginia Mercury’s subject focus will be an increased coverage of Virginia governmental issues, appealing to left-progressive readers interested in immigration, environment, criminal justice, health, transportation, and education. 6


The Virginia Mercury was created and initially operated with direct funding from the Hopewell Fund and the New Venture Fund, both funding and fiscal sponsorship entities in the Arabella Advisors network. 7 The foundational donations for the Virginia Mercury came primarily from the New Venture Fund, which  aggregated grants from other organizations. 8

The New Venture Fund is a sister organization to the Hopewell Fund, with assets in the hundreds of millions, which is a part of an umbrella of donor groups falling under Arabella Advisors. The New Venture Fund, its close relative the Sixteen Thirty Fund, and Arabella have all been labeled as “dark-money” organizations. The network’s funding comes from secretive donors that funnel monies to oppose conservative causes and advocate for policies including abortion and environmentalism. 9

News Coverage and Bias

Robert Zullo, the founding editor of the Virginia Mercury,10 explained the organization would be modeled after the left-leaning news organizations NC Policy Watch11 and Vox. 12

Conservative blog Bacon’s Rebellion criticized the Virginia Mercury as biased in its news selection and reporting commentary. 13 It described the Virginia Mercury as the “Environmental People’s Daily,” and claims it receives preferential treatment by a news aggregator called Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). VPAP purportedly redistributes Virginia Mercury’s stories much more frequently which gains the Virginia Mercury greater exposure due an alleged left-of-center bias. 14

Recent featured news stories include a glowing profile of an environmentalist represented as “Raging granny” with the “forest name” of Duff. The 76-year old was arrested for handcuffing herself to pipeline equipment and defended her behavior by arguing that pipelines target poor people and people of color. 15

Virginia Mercury provided extensive coverage of the anti-gun control activism in Virginia, writing an article that lamented the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Virginia politics. It further suggested the NRA has ties to Russian influence. 16

Another story featured left-progressive energy policy goals that claim to reach net-zero carbon emissions throughout Virginia by 2045 and within the electric power sector by 2040. 17

Staff and Contributing Writers

Robert Zullo is the founding editor of the Virginia Mercury and was described by a conservative media outlet as representing environmentalist arguments. 18 In November of 2019, Editor Robert Zullo claimed that constituents that support Second Amendment gun rights were going “ham” because of the “right-wing media, pro-gun and anti-government groups.” 19

Sarah Vogelsong is the Environment and Energy reporter for the Virginia Mercury and features on her Twitter page a statement about how she teaches that climate change is ruining the planet. 20

The Virginia Mercury invites many writers from Democratic and progressive backgrounds21 to contribute articles representing left-of-center positions. 22

A featured and regular Virginia Mercury commentator is Gordon Hickey, a former press secretary for U.S. Senator (and former Governor) Tim Kaine (D-VA). Hickey authored an article titled “Trust Me I’m A Reporter” in which he inferred that President Donald Trump is lying about his claims of fake news to garner supporters. 23 Hickey also wrote an article claiming that the United States discriminates against southern immigrants because they are people of color. 24

Another featured writer is Ivy Main whose background includes working for the United States Environmental Protection Agency and volunteering for the Sierra Club. Main writes pro-environmental articles arguing for reduced fossil fuel use and supporting environmentalist energy sources. 25

Karla Loeb has contributed commentary to the Virginia Mercury advocating the elimination of fossil fuels. Loeb is employed by a solar power company and resides on the board of an agency representing 250,000 solar power employees. 26

Vivian Thomson is another writer for the Virginia Mercury with a left-of-center background. She was a professor of environmental science and politics at the University of Virginia. Thomson authored the book, Climate of Capitulation: An Insider’s Account of State Power in a Coal Nation, and produces an environmentalist podcast called the Meaning of Green. 27

Kathay Feng wrote for the Virginia Mercury for redistricting reform. Feng is employed by the left-of-center organization Common Cause28 as the national redistricting director. 29

Another contributor is Rebecca R. Rubin who has a strong environmentalist background. She is on the board of the Nature Conservancy, was a board chair at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and is currently the president and CEO of Marstel-Day environmental consulting. 30

Kim Bobo wrote for the Virginia Mercury on the need to raise the minimum wage.  Bobo is a worker’s rights advocate and runs the left-wing organizing group Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. He is the author of the manifesto Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Workers are Not Getting Paid and What We Can Do About It. 31

Commentator Bobby Vassar wrote a commentary on redistricting. Vassar sits on the board of OneVirginia2021, an entity seeking redistricting reform. 32 Vassar was the chief counsel and legislative director for U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). 33


  1. Van Zandt , D. “Virginia Mercury.” Media Bias/Fact Check, August 23, 2019.
  2. “States Newsroom Hiring Media Administrative Assistant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States.” LinkedIn. Accessed January 23, 2020.
  3. Spiers, Jonathan. “New Richmond-Based News Startup Poaches Times-Dispatch Talent.” Richmond BizSense, June 25, 2018.
  4. Spiers, Jonathan. “New Richmond-Based News Startup Poaches Times-Dispatch Talent.” Richmond BizSense, June 25, 2018.
  5. Spiers, Jonathan. “New Richmond-Based News Startup Poaches Times-Dispatch Talent.” Richmond BizSense, June 25, 2018.
  6. King, Sarah. “News Startup.”, September 5, 2018.
  7. Spiers, Jonathan. “New Richmond-Based News Startup Poaches Times-Dispatch Talent.” Richmond BizSense, June 25, 2018.
  8. Spencer, Paul. “Former Times-Dispatch Reporters Leading an Online News Startup.” Style Weekly. Style Weekly, June 22, 2018.
  9. “New Venture Fund (NVF).” New Venture Fund (NVF). Accessed January 24, 2020.
  10. Spiers, Jonathan. “New Richmond-Based News Startup Poaches Times-Dispatch Talent.” Richmond BizSense, June 25, 2018.
  11. *, Name. “NC Policy Watch.” Mapping The Left. Accessed January 24, 2020.
  12. “Vox.” Vox. Accessed January 24, 2020.
  13. Haner, Steve. “Enough. This Partisan Bias Is Just Too Obvious.” Bacons Rebellion, April 1, 2019.
  14. Haner, Steve. “Virginia Mercury At One: Kicking GOP Butt.” Bacons Rebellion, July 17, 2019.
  15. Adams, Mason, Clifton Forge, Robert Zullo, Sarah Vogelsong, Graham Moomaw, and Ned -Oliver. “’Raging Granny’ Faces Music for Pipeline Protest: ‘Happy That I Did It’.” Virginia Mercury, January 14, 2020.
  16. Hankerson, Mechelle, Sarah Vogelsong, Ned Oliver, and Graham Moomaw. “It’s Not the NRA’s Money That Sways Virginia Politics: It’s the Members.” Virginia Mercury, July 17, 2019.
  17. VogelsongSarah, Sarah, Ned Oliver, and Graham Moomaw. “Senate Committee Gives the Nod to Nuclear as Part of Renewables Transition.” Virginia Mercury, January 21, 2020.
  18. Bacon, James. “Nonprofit Journalism Comes to Virginia.” Bacons Rebellion, June 25, 2018.
  19. Zullo, Robert, Ned Oliver, and Graham Moomaw. “Reaping the Harvest of the (Mis)Information Age.” Virginia Mercury, January 16, 2020.
  20. Vogelsong, Sarah. “Sarah Vogelsong (@SarahVogelsong).” Twitter. Twitter, October 16, 2019.^tfw|twcamp^embeddedtimeline|twterm^list:MercuryVirginia:the_virginia_mercury&ref_url=
  21. “Guest Column, Author at Virginia Mercury.” Virginia Mercury, January 21, 2020.
  22. Haner, Steve. “Enough. This Partisan Bias Is Just Too Obvious.” Bacons Rebellion, April 1, 2019.
  23. Hickey, Gordon, Ned Oliver, and Sarah Vogelsong. “Trust Me, I’m a Reporter.” Virginia Mercury, August 21, 2018.
  24. Hickey, Gordon, Sarah Vogelsong, Ned Oliver, and Graham Moomaw. “Give Thanks for President Trump.” Virginia Mercury, July 27, 2018.
  25. “Ivy Main, Author at Virginia Mercury.” Virginia Mercury, January 14, 2020.
  26. Oliver, Ned, and Graham Moomaw. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act Is a Giant Leap Forward for Virginia Energy Policy.” Virginia Mercury, January 15, 2020.
  27. Thomson, Vivian. “Vivian Thomson, Author at Virginia Mercury.” Virginia Mercury, January 9, 2020.
  28. “Common Cause.” Common Cause. Accessed January 24, 2020.
  29. Vogelsong, Sarah, Ned Oliver, and Graham Moomaw. “The Time for Comprehensive Redistricting Reform Is Now.” Virginia Mercury, January 7, 2020.
  30. Vogelsong, Sarah, Ned Oliver, and Graham Moomaw. “The Time Has Come: Congress Must Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.” Virginia Mercury, January 6, 2020.
  31. Oliver, Ned, and Graham Moomaw. “Worker Rights Are Returning to Virginia.” Virginia Mercury, December 16, 2019.
  32. Lance-Star, The Free. “Opinion/Editorial: No Excuses: Pass Virginia Redistricting Amendment.” The Daily Progress, January 14, 2020.
  33. Oliver, Ned, and Sarah Vogelsong. “On Redistricting Reform, Democrats Must Not Yield to Temptation.” Virginia Mercury, December 2, 2019.
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Virginia Mercury

Richmond, VA