Local newspapers and independent journalism are the lifeblood of a community. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, they “connect” us with a regularly published, reliable source of information we need to carry on with our businesses and our lives.
In the age of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the like, local news stands alone in defining “news” from “static.” While other web sources are amusing, their point of view and biases always come into play. Intelligent consumers should fact-check pretty much everything they find on the web, where conspiracy theorists embrace and share dubious content.
When it comes to local news, independent newspapers and their web versions are the most reliable source of straight-up, just-the-facts local news.
How do you know if you are reading a bona fide newspaper or news outlet? Look for Virginia Press Association (VPA) membership. The VPA bylaws define a bona fide newspaper as one that meets the standards of the Code of Virginia to be used for legal notices, which means it publishes local news and has been published and in circulation for at least a year, among other requirements.
Because few people have the time to attend local government meetings, local news organizations are there for you so you know what’s going on -- whether it be proposed taxes and fees, land-use issues, human rights (and wrongs), constitutional topics like the right to bear arms and the limits of those rights, or many other things that capture the public’s attention.
InsideNoVa’s newspaper and website provide real-time information on issues you care about, such as the latest public policy and statistics on COVID-19. The paper makes room for opinions and letters to the editor on this editorial page.
In these interesting times, advertising becomes the lifeblood of a local business. As Gov. Ralph Northam rolls out Virginia’s plan to re-open, businesses will count on InsideNoVa to let the public know when they are ready to serve us again, what accommodations they are making to protect us and what specials they are offering to help us get through age of COVID-19.
Restaurants share their menus and instructions for pick-up, curbside takeout and delivery. New businesses created as a result of COVID-19 can announce their presence and special niche in these interesting times. Advertising keeps businesses in the game and the rest of us in the loop. I always look for coupons. A Pitkins Ace Hardware coupon is hanging on my refrigerator ready for my next trip there.
When it comes to local journalism, you are the news. You can submit news tips, create your own article, write a letter, publicize an event or subscribe to the newspaper on the InsideNoVa website.
As the Washington Post reminds us, “democracy dies in darkness.” By their nature, governing bodies are not naturally transparent. Public messaging is crafted to present a specific point of view that supports whatever policy issue it addresses.
You can find sources on the web that reflect biases, misinformation and conspiracy theories on every issue before governing bodies. It is up to local newspapers to pull back the curtains and shed light on important issues that might otherwise go unnoticed by the public and report the facts so you can make informed decisions.
Support local journalism. As Joni Mitchell so famously wrote, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Do you really want Facebook to be your only source of local news?
Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al at www.alborn.net.