Last October, I was speaking to a candidate running for office in the November election.

I asked him why he wasn’t getting any coverage in The News Virginian. He stated the newspaper was not giving him any coverage because they were of a different political viewpoint and would not do anything to let its readers know his stance on the issues. My response was this was not true, the paper would be fair, and I volunteered to call the editor and see what was going on.

When I made the call to the editor, he said he would be glad to do a story on the candidate and said to have the candidate call and he would set up an interview. Sometimes people have misperceptions of how things are, and they are completely wrong. Always go to the source and don’t assume anything. Things are not always what you read or hear.

During the call, the editor whom I had never met, said he had planned to call me about another matter and explained he wanted to know if I would write a column for the newspaper about subjects which were pertinent to the Waynesboro community. I said it would be an honor to write a column for the paper. He wanted me to give a local perspective to the paper. There was talk of a small stipend but in the end, I volunteered to do it without the stipend since I viewed it as a community service. Anything I could do to help the local newspaper might benefit both the paper and the community. Without a local newspaper the community loses big time.

In 2005, during my first term on city council the meetings were not well attended and there was no other way to know what transpired except the local newspaper and a couple of entrepreneurs with small online publications. But the major source of news was the newspaper. I advocated for the meetings to be televise so more citizens could observe their council at work. We wanted to make access easy for the people to be involved in their local government. As the founding fathers believed democracy does not work without informed citizen involvement.

The newspaper at that time had a larger staff and sent a reporter to all public meetings. So, for those who did not read the paper, broadcasting the meetings was a way for more people to keep on top of issues as were brought before the city council. The broadcasts were set three times a day on the city’s cable channel. We voted to approve the broadcasts.

The paper had about three times the circulation then as it does now. Many people tell me that it doesn’t have anything of interest in it anymore and they have dropped their subscriptions. It has been called the picture paper because the photos take up most of the front page.

If we lose our newspaper, it will hurt this community because there will be no one to report what our city government is doing. There will be no watchdog so to speak. We need a newspaper to keep us informed as to what is happening in all areas of our city from obituaries, local sports, new businesses, to special events and local government.

We can help the paper survive by subscribing or renewing a subscription to the paper or digital format. Let the staff of the newspaper know what you want to see in your newspaper. I have been given the opportunity to express my opinion and in my opinion it would be a terrible loss if we no longer had a local newspaper.

In the city council election last month, we had a 20% turnout of registered voters to choose who will lead our city for the next four years. This turnout percentage means that 80% of the voters stayed home. While this is a sad turnout, what would if be if the newspaper had not covered the candidates and given people an opportunity to evaluate them on their platforms. Your vote counts but you must be informed on the issues, philosophies, and thoughts of those seeking office.

Thomas Jefferson once said:

“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

Frank Lucente is the author of “Politics & People: A Waynesboro Story.” He served as a councilman, vice mayor and mayor of Waynesboro over the course of 11 years.

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