Meet The grassroots reporting startup looking to change our relationship with the news…and save democracy in the process

Blake Stoner was studying at Morehouse College when protests broke out in Ferguson, Missouri after news that Michael Brown was fatally shot by police. As a civic-minded college student, he went up to Ferguson to help register people to vote, with the hopes that more engagement in the elections could help change local communities.

He left Ferguson with a very different view of the community. And that view was not at all what he was seeing on major news outlets, which focused heavily on the protests.

“The grassroots reality was very different. It was missing so many hyperlocal details,” Stoner said.

When he returned home to Georgia, he couldn’t help but notice that was an issue for media outlets across the country. The reality is that most cash strapped newsrooms often don’t have the staff capacity to be in all neighborhoods and communities they should be covering. So “news deserts” emerge…often to the detriment of underrepresented populations.

“There’s a lot of gaps in coverage, and there is no infrastructure to cover those gaps. And after I saw that, I couldn’t unsee it,” he told Hypepotamus.

vngle logoHoping to build that infrastructure, Stoner launched Vngle in 2018. The grassroots news agency and media service platform helps newsrooms get access to verified stories from more diverse, underrepresented backgrounds. The platform connects newsrooms with “grassroot collaborators” who know those communities well. Vngle, which is short for “various angles,” trains local experts on how to find and create meaningful and relevant stories that have been overlooked by the mainstream news outlets.

Vetted content relies heavily on blockchain technology to ensure its authenticity and to help decentralize media operations. It combines creator reporting training and digital content forensics to “empower vetted local experts to help our partners better source cross-cultural information.”

The startup’s wire service works similar to that of Reuters and the Associated Press, where Vngle subscribers get access to crucial and vetted stories they might miss otherwise.

Stoner describes the platform as something like a “Taskrabbit for newsrooms and civic organizations,” since the service drastically increases the scope of quality stories each organization can create.


The majority of Vngle-trained experts are community leaders who already have deep institutional knowledge of their communities and can help craft quality content that most accurately reflects the places they call home. Those experts go through VNGLE training to create compelling, factual, and non-partisan content that is ready for major outlets to use.

Vngle has already trained 100 people across the State of Georgia through their reporting program.

Vngle has been particularly focused on covering Georgia’s healthcare news. This is crucial for Stoner and his team, since the state ranks the worst place for healthcare and has one of the worst for maternal deaths, but that news is often left out of daily headlines.

example of Vngle from website

But in 2024, Vngle is hyper focused on the Presidential Election cycle.

Stoner believes Vngle can play an important role in getting vetted stories out to Georgia voters ahead of November’s Election Day.

“Our focus is going to be on bringing more coverage to cross-cultural communities that historically are never in the discussion around the elections. I think the American people are just very tired of the horse-race coverage around [the election]. No matter your political leaning, the vast majority of Americans would agree that we should be focused on the needs of Americans. Let’s put the needs of all Americans in the forefront,” he told Hypepotamus.

While VNGLE is particularly focused on Georgia, it is looking to expand into key battleground states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

blake with students


Stoner has spent much of the last few years gathering the credentials he needs to build Vngle. He has a degree in strategic communication from Columbia University and graduated from Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s executive program. He also went through Flatiron School’s coding bootcamp and has been heavily involved in the Atlanta Blockchain Center.

By combining his technical and media expertise, Stoner is ready to help voters get prepared for the upcoming elections cycle through Vngle’s vetted content.

‘My goal is to help [media] build back trust and its reputation through a different way of thinking about the news. Most people who distrust the media are those who feel they have been lied to and they don’t have transparency into what’s going on or into the information they’ve been given. With our approach of training and empowering locals, we help shine the light on issues in a holistic manner,” Stoner added.

Photos from Vngle’s website