I wonder if you might remember the Christmas story about the little girl in New York City. She asked her father if there was a Santa Claus and he told her to write a letter to the New York Sun, because if you read it in the Sun, you knew it was true.
That story is true. The little girl wrote her letter to the Sun in 1897. I repeat it here to give you some sense of the faith the people have always placed in the news media, particularly the print media. Much the same is true, or once was true, for broadcast journalism. If you heard it from Chet Huntley and David Brinkley you were very likely to believe it.
Alas, the world of journalism is changing mightily, and, in my mind, it is not for the better.
I recently read an article by David Westphal from the Columbia Journalism Review. Mr. Westphal is a highly respected, veteran newspaper editor and reporter. His article, published November 14, 2017, drew from different parts of the country and what is going on with small newspapers, but it was primarily about what is going on right here in Rappahannock.
Apparently, when some of the Foothills people arrived here on our shores, they thought they had landed in a wasteland. To quote Bud Meyer, who is quoted in the Westphal piece I just mentioned, “Basically, this county is a news desert.”
Well, that might be the case. But it never bothered us before. We are also a Wal-Mart desert, but that never bothered us before. Before what, you ask? Before Mr. Meyer arrived on the scene to tell us what a wasteland we lived in.
But what were we suffering from? We had the Rappahannock News to tell us about the local goings on, and what the Board of Supervisors did this week, and which churches were holding their benefit dinners and which fire departments and rescue squads needed our support and what we could do about it. And if there was an occasional wreck on our highways or a bad storm or weather event, we would hear about it sooner or later.
If you want it, the Northern Virginia Daily is available Monday through Saturday. You can even get the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Some of us even have televisions and computers and cell phones that get the weather and the news as it happens.
And let me say right now that I have no reason to believe that Bud Meyer is anything but a stand-up guy. I was with several friends from church and we were playing some live music for the Lions Club chili cook-off, and Bud came up and introduced himself to me. He seemed like a nice enough fellow. But I would like to respectfully disagree with him. We had and still have all the news we wanted and all the news we needed. Where is the news desert?
I’ll tell you where it is. It is in the mind of those who need something they can “fix” to make this a better place. Mr. Meyer proposes to fix this, for all of us. I can hardly wait.
Just don’t tell me that you are going to fix this problem by hiring reporters of your choosing to write stories of your choosing for the paper to publish, so we can all be enlightened. One other thing I need to tell you. I have complete confidence in the integrity of the owner and editor of our Rappahannock News. They would never print anything they didn’t feel was worthy of their readers. But this “fix” has a bad smell to me.
Maybe it is just foolish, country bumpkin pride, but I like it here. I have always liked it here. I don’t feel deprived for want of more news. I don’t feel deprived for want of a bike trail. I don’t feel deprived that we don’t have a Super Walmart. The Rappahannock News has told me what I needed to know for years, and what news is not in that little paper . . . well, I can only say that I become less and less interested in it as time goes on. There are times I could use a comics section, however.