Mr. Frank Lucente is spot on. As he declared in Sunday’s News Virginian, “...it would be a terrible loss if we no longer had a local newspaper.”
Those who crave to know what our current or aspiring city and county officials are doing and planning would have their single best pipeline of information cut off. TV out of Charlottesville could be an alternative, but its coverage of local government is abysmal, either completely absent or at best minimal.
So what are newspapers to do? Circulation and readership are at historic lows. Hundreds of local newspapers have shut down their presses, losing essential advertising revenue and unable to meet payrolls. Along with the demise of the local press, voting participation is embarrassingly low. Is there a correlation? Perhaps. How can an uninformed public be expected to either vote or to make informed choices when it does vote?
The explosion of digital information could have been the solution. The problem is that responsible journalism on the Internet depends largely on reporting by the journalists that newspapers can no longer afford. Digital news has become full of editorializing and conspiracies.
I, too, have served in local government – 12 years as county supervisor. I learned quickly that the best way of communicating with constituents was through open channels with local reporters. I did not always like what the editorial page writers of my local paper thought about my positions, but I could always depend on the news reporters to describe my work as well as that of my colleagues in a fair way. That is a distinction that many people often overlook, the difference between the publisher and the news bureau.
Kudos to The News Virginian for the diversity of views in Perspectives, if only they could be more local.
I don’t know what the solution is except to observe that the denigrated billionaire class could be a life saver. I think of billionaire Jeff Bezos rescuing The Washington Post as its new owner, providing a needed lifeline while preserving journalistic independence. Billionaire Warren Buffet tried it with The News Virginian, but defaulted to profit making.
It is helpful for Mr. Lucente to plead for more subscribers of print and digital, but it remains for The News Virginian owners to beef up the reporting capabilities of the paper to lure more subscribers. I fervently hope for their success.