I recently read on hburgnews.com that the mayor of Harrisonburg, Kai Degner, was looking to create a new publication, the Harrisonburg Times. I’m sure that my initial reaction was much the same as yours. The mayor wants to run a newspaper? Wouldn’t such a periodical be little more than a propaganda mill? Although government control of the press was natural in Soviet Russia, don’t we enjoy the freedom of the press? But then I got to thinking. On the other hand, given that most of our public offices are merely part time positions, wouldn’t the mayor as a private citizen have as much a right to run a paper as anyone else? I’ll admit that the thought of a new paper intrigued me. Although I have no real complaints with the Daily News Record, this part of the state does need a new forum for political discourse. Far too often the letters to the editor are poorly written, littered with outlandish political statements, and have little or faulty reasoning. In addition, I don’t think anyone can honestly say that the paper doesn’t have a conservative slant. (Being a conservative, I have no qualms about a conservative newspaper, but I’m sure some of our liberal friends would prefer a more “progressive” outlet.) In general, I believe many portions of the state suffer from an acute lack of political awareness and understanding which can stifle dialogue and create hostility toward differing opinions. A new paper could work wonders to correct this problem.
As I love both politics and writing, I quickly applied to write for this new publication. However, in my inquiry, one burning question haunted my thoughts. Would a conservative such as myself be welcome, or would I be ostracized? On Thursday afternoon, Mayor Degner scheduled a meeting for potential writers to gather at the Blue Nile Café downtown. Although I don’t have an exact count, I would say that there were between twenty to twenty-five folks who arrived to learn more. Of course there were a handful of politically minded citizens in the group, but far more expressed an interest in discussing a variety of topics such as gardening, volunteerism, religion, tourism, or green technology to name just a few. I would wager that I was likely the only conservative in the crowd. I earlier joked that if they accepted me, I would be the “Alan Colmes” of the group. For those who don’t get the reference, for a number of years, Mr. Colmes was the token liberal on Fox News.
Mr. Degner explained that his reasoning for creating the Harrisonburg Times was twofold. First, and most importantly, it is very difficult to find free news about Harrisonburg on the internet. Second, he felt that the local media outlets don’t sufficiently cover all the news stories in the region. Third, although not discussed too much, was dissatisfaction with the conservative aspect of our local media. I won’t lie; I winced every time anyone uttered the word “progressive”. I guess the term liberal has fallen out of favor and progressive is now its “politically correct” replacement. I did find it interesting that the mayor mentioned to me that I was free to criticize him in the Harrisonburg Times. Even though I may take him up on this offer at some point, unlike some Republican commentators, I don’t automatically try to tear down and besmirch every official who happens to have a D beside his or her name. But for more information about the Harrisonburg Times, you should visit their website.
The first issue of the Harrisonburg Times should be available online on April 15. My greatest concern is that the publication will be a liberal hotbed. That issue not withstanding, I’m keeping an open mind and I fully intend to submit an article. Although I’m still pondering what to write about, I’ve got a few ideas.
Tune in on April 15 to find out more!