Editorial: The Foothills survey

Special report

• The Foothills Forum survey

Our country is deeply divided. Our county is not.

Given today’s national news, this in itself is big news.

Of course, we all have our disagreements and differing priorities. But the results of Foothills Forum’s survey of county households affirms how truly unique Rappahannock is. There are few places where people, including folks from sometimes vastly different backgrounds, agree on so much.

A no-brainer? Not necessarily.

“A survey like this illuminates the preferences of everyone as opposed to just the few who are raising their voices,” University of Virginia Center for Survey Research co-founder Thomas Guterbock told reporter Christopher Connell.

“It gives voice to the many.”

And, indeed, a statistically huge number of county households participated in the survey. The 42 percent response was unusually high, according to UVA’s Guterbock.

Once again, take a bow, Rappahannock. Not surprisingly, we’re an exceptionally involved and interested place.

We know what we love about this place, and some areas where change could be a good thing (better internet and cellphone service being the top concerns, according to the survey).

So, was the Foothills Forum survey “worth it”? That is for that organization’s members to decide. And everyone else can have an opinion, of course.

From our perspective, as a newspaper, we’re in the information business. The Foothills survey offers a statistically accurate snapshot about the issues our community cares about most.

We feel this is valuable information — unbiased, non-agenda-driven data. County residents — not some special interest or outside group — have spoken.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will explore some of the top issues highlighted in the survey by featuring in-depth stories, with the help of resources provided by Foothills Forum. This partnership allows us to deliver coverage that a small community newspaper could not afford to do otherwise.

For instance, we’ll examine how other rural counties have dealt with the lack of internet and mobile phone connectivity.

Our agreement with Foothills Forum (available at rappnews.com/survey and at the Rappahannock News office) has been and is a public document. It’s modeled after similar partnerships between nonprofits and media organizations, many large, some small. For instance, an arts group in North Carolina has provided resources to a paper there to help maintain cultural coverage amidst a shrinking newsroom budget.

Our mission is to provide community news and information. That’s our only agenda. In keeping with this goal, we present the survey findings this week.

— Rappahannock News

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