Six years as editor of this rag and I have refrained from writing even one opinion column because . . . well, it seemed as if having an opinion, or making you all read it, would clash with the work I mostly do — which involves listening, taking notes and praying that I can read them later.
I am writing a column today because, though I use the term “rag” in a fond way, it is my strong opinion that the newspaper you hold in your hands is no such thing.
I pray you agree, but I also encourage you to check. Pick up some back issues, or visit our website at rappnews.com — and compare our product with some of the other small weekly newspapers around the country, if not the region.
You can do all this without signing out of Facebook, by the way.
For those who don’t know, I have been off the grid for a few months, having “retired” from the Rappahannock News at the end of 2015, mostly to spend some time in a quiet, padded room and have my meals conveniently delivered through a slot. I worked on websites for Rappahannock Media, which owns this newspaper as well as the Culpeper Times and Piedmont Virginian magazine. During exercise period, I wrote some feature stories.
But now, due to circumstances beyond our control, I have un-retired for a while.
One of my first tasks, upon returning as editor, was to get my one good ear closer to the ground. In this effort, I renewed my subscription to Rappnet, the group email list to which more than 1,200 people who live in or care about Rappahannock belong, and a place, over the years, where stories often turn up shortly after their appearance in the real world.
The stories, or posts about real-world needs, offers and observations, are still there. But mostly what stands out on Rappnet these days is primarily the opinions of a few frequent fliers.
Maybe I should say frequent tunnelers, since the thoughts of the characters I’m talking about carry more the whiff of dirt and runoff than fresh air and sunlight.
Anyway, of course, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But I’m here to say that nobody is entitled to the opinion — born of either ignorance of the facts, or Reading Between the Lines Gone Wild, or plain old misdirected rage — that questions whether this newspaper routinely aims to get at the truth every Thursday.
I purposely said “aims,” mind you, rather than “succeeds.” In fact, it was a mounting number of near misses that started us talking, a couple of years ago, about the ways that, I don’t know, perhaps some sort of nonpartisan, community nonprofit organization might help us report the news.
These discussions led, over time, to the creation of the Foothills Forum.
There have been many discussions since, and a detailed Foothills-sponsored survey, all of which had the hallmarks of dialogue. As opposed to monologue.
Some would say I should post some version of this column on Rappnet itself — and actually, I came close to doing that. But then . . . no. There are a few frequent tunnelers on Rappnet whose default response invariably involves doubting, slandering and/or misrepresenting this newspaper — and that Foothills group as well.
Some would say Rappnet is a competitor of the newspaper — as Facebook is, or the front stoop at Quicke Mart — so I guess that makes their potshots understandable, if not excusable.
The one thing that’s apparently changed for me this time around in the job is my ability to suffer fools gladly — especially when it comes to this whole Us and Them song and dance that a select few like to practice on Rappnet, in the process running their elbows and knees into those who have good will and love in their hearts, and maybe some money in their pockets — but who perhaps lack a certain Rappahannock perspective, or a taste for rhetoric and/or blood.
Speaking of rhetoric, and maybe blood, I have so missed the “condescending lectures about our concerns” that a certain frequent poster likes to make on Rappnet — especially the ones that end with a suggestion that someone who dares to disagree with him refrain from making “condescending lectures about our concerns.” And really especially the ones that repeatedly use the word “we” and “our” as if the writer is speaking for . . . well, us.
As his own petitions have alleged time and again, including on this newspaper’s op-ed page: Here in Rappahannock, “us” is kinda complicated.
So anyone who doesn’t get “us” as good as he does, I guess, is Them. And so it’s okay to put down anyone who hopes to bring about some understanding of the extent, history and everyday signs of those complications.
Such as the people who own, publish, write for and edit this newspaper. Not to mention many of the 7,000 or so people who read it every week.
All of which is a very long-winded way of saying I’m glad to be back.
Roger has been the editor of the Rappahannock News, off and on, since 2010. The views expressed are his own. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org — or you can likely find him, especially after today, in the online community forums at rappland.org.