For those of you who read the CV, you might have noticed some changes, info-graphics on the front page, and syndicated pieces on the op-ed pages. Part of their parent companies, Lakeway Publishers brand of messaging … I mean journalism.
The owner of this privately held company, R. Jack Fishman is a big supporter of this model of low cost journalism, determined to follow the “dominant form of journalism,” promoted by his beloved Reynolds’s Institute.
Where what matters is their commitment to this model of content delivery, come hell or high water. And for two of Lakeway's local papers, the Hanover Herald-Progress, and the Caroline Progress, that moment of reckoning arrived this past Thursday their last day of publication.
Considering that respectively they had been in business for over 130 years, and just shy of a century, the demise of these two cultural icons will have repercussions well beyond the loss of local news.
If you were confused by the editorial the CV put out that same day, filled with hyperbolic statements 'like “massive body blows to the 1st Amendment,” you were not alone. Because in attempting to blame rising paper costs as a source of newspapers woes, it pointedly ignores the reality that newspapers, including the CV are not engaging their audiences.
As a measure of engagement, advertising sales are not the same thing as dedicated readers. Something I suspect both of these defunct papers had issues with. And as the flagship of Lakeway’s remaining Virginia papers, the CV makes enough in advertising revenue to afford staff to cover local events.
David Holtzman, in particular has markedly improved the scope and quality of their local stories.
Yet there is no escaping the reality that Lakeway's brand of rentier journalism meant that most of their papers weren't allowed the necessary staff to cover local affairs, then presumably that resulting dead space was filled up with conservative syndicate-content on their op-ed pages.
And when it comes to reading local opinions and commentary, far too often they get crowded out by these puff pieces, sometimes an entire page worth.
Whether it’s because of a lack of letters that week, or that certain pieces “must run” remains to be seen. While their readers would appreciate well written commentary from time to time, they may not be aware what certain contributors like; The Family Research Council, and The National Review are about.
The former is on the Southern Poverty Centers hate group watch list, and the later is a far right publication. While promoting conservaganda says much about Lakeway’s priorities, the lack of response to those pieces should be a cause for concern.
That being said, one of the biggest paradoxes of the modern information age is how little people actually know about what is happening in their state, particularly at the county level. The more local an issue or political office is the greater impact it has on any given person’s daily life. State and local legislators, who decide funding levels for local transportation projects and school districts, have far more influence on the average person’s life than even the president of the United States.
So stay tuned for some blasts from the past; the Dark Side of Newspapers, and Local Reporting isn’t Much Better