Alumni Stories

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University of Richmond Journalism Department is our home!  Our alumni are an active part of our community and we wouldn’t be without YOU.  All alumni are invited to participate on our Alumni page as a class representative.  This page provides the opportunity for members of our school community to support each other in business and professional endeavors as well as  invites you to serve as a resource for our students by shedding some insights and pertinent information for a job, an internship opportunity, speaking about your field of expertise or help navigate the varied paths in our profession.  

We cherish our relationship with the people who have graduated from our department and love to hear how you are doing.  Please click on the buttons below to update your contact information or to share your good news (graduation, promotion, award/recognition, publication, marriage, birth, alumni gathering, etc.) On behalf of all of us, thank  you for your dedication to University of Richmond Journalism Department.  Once a Spider, always a Spider!


Tom Lappas

“You never really know where life is gonna take you.”- Tom Lappas ’98

Tom Lappas graduated from the University of Richmond in 1998 with a journalism major and political science minor. He grew up in Herndon, Virginia. While at the University of Richmond, Lappas was the Sports Editor for the Collegian.

In 2001, three years after graduating, Lappas founded the Henrico Citizen, a local community news source. In March 2020, the Citizen transitioned to a fully digital news organization that covers all of Henrico County. The Henrico Citizen has won 250 awards for news content and advertising design since 2001.

The following conversation with Tom Lappas has been slightly edited for clarity.

What was it like starting your own company? Was there anything unexpected that you encountered?

In retrospect, I was a very naive 24-year-old. I had done the work from an editorial journalism standpoint for three years, and I did pretty well, but I knew nothing about running a business or funding a business, or how to start something and make sure it doesn’t run out of money in five months.

We were planning to publish our first issue in September of 2001, and then, of course, September 11th happened, and it was like, now what. It was a difficult time to start any business. We decided to go ahead, and we published twice a month in print until covid hit. Our print edition was bookended by two once in a lifetime types of events.

What was the purpose of the Citizen?

We tried to do as much as possible to give Henrico County a hometown news source, and that’s what I hoped the Citizen would be, and that’s what we have worked for. We have a core duty of covering the news of the county.

What was your experience writing for The Collegian?

I credit the time I spent on The Collegian for really training me. I was the sports editor of the Collegian during my last two years there, and that was my focus. During those two years, I spent a ton of time writing, planning, and trying new things and staying up until 8 a.m. on our deadline days. My time on the Collegian was really job training.

When did you know that you wanted to major in journalism?

I was in 5th grade, and our principal put out a call for anyone that wanted to be on the school newspaper, and something about it caught my eye. I’ve always loved sports, and my first article was a manifesto about the major league baseball season. I still have a copy of that article. I knew from that moment that I wanted to do that professionally, and I was on every school newspaper as the sports editor all the way through, and here I am.

If you could give your sophomore year self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep an open mind about possibilities. You never really know what you might like or dislike within the field. If you don’t see the job that you want in journalism, you might be the one to create it because it’s a lot more possible to do that now.

What was the biggest takeaway from your Richmond journalism classes?

The journalism department gave a kid like me, a shy kid, the ability to learn the foundations of what you need to be a great journalist. Everything about the department, the school, and the Collegian were very approachable for a kid like me.

Who was your favorite journalism teacher?

All of them were great, but Mike Spear always stands out to anybody that has taken journalism classes at Richmond as someone whose enthusiasm for journalism and life you couldn’t help but get excited about whatever he was teaching. He has such a passion for what he does and how it comes through. You could tell how much he cared about us getting better and learning. It makes you want to be better when you have someone like that.

Was your career in journalism everything you expected it to be? Did anything take you by surprise?

What I’ve always loved about journalism is being able to communicate through writing and explain things to people in that way. I think that’s what I was put here to do. I am pretty good at it, and I enjoy it. Doing this with the Citizen for the last 21 years it’s been rewarding in the sense that I created this thing, and it’s still going, and it had a positive impact on our community, and it still matters to people. It’s helped educate people, and the ripple effect of that has been positive. The frustrating part is I’ve never gotten it to the place I envisioned it to be from a business perspective.

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