Local Commentary

Editorial: F.C. Retreats in Information War

We live in the great Information Age. The means by which people are communicating and spreading everything from powerful insights to deceitful lies are exploding. There is nothing that can hold it back. The Internet is the primary resource for this, but there remain expanded roles for more traditional means, like radio, TV, film, magazines and newspapers, as well.

In this context, to aspire for values, the elevation of truth over fiction and good over downright nasty, requires a combative posture. It is not just an information age, it is an information war. We see how deception works in the operations of something like Fox News, pretending to be one thing, but actually being another thing, entirely. That kind of dissembling is rampant on the Internet, where rabid racists can masquerade on their blog sites as innocuous “fair and balanced” so-called “newspapers,” and the like. Who can you believe? Where can you turn for the truth?

In this imperfect world, nothing is completely pure, but there is a growing realization that news organizations engaged in the time-worn profession of journalism – and it is a profession – are being turned to more and more to discern facts over fiction, relative objectivity over opinion cloaked as truth. So is good government, as well, depended upon to provide credible information in a crowded sea of jabbering heads.

Professional journalism and good government, while necessarily operating in different worlds, are not always adversarial, but in this cacophonous age, can play roles complementary to each other in the public service of truth, facts and full disclosure of information.

Such a unique relationship between the City of Falls Church and the Falls Church News-Press has existed since 2002 in the form of a special “public-private partnership,” whereby the City has prepared and provided two pages of vital and reliable information to its citizens on a weekly basis, and the News-Press has made the space available for the publication of that information at a very steeply discounted price. Each of these entities has recognized the importance of the other to promote truth and factual information to the citizens of Falls Church, especially in these times, and the partnership has worked very smoothly and effectively on both sides.

But now City Hall is proposing to terminate that partnership by diluting it to such an extent that its effectiveness will be lost. Rather than taking up the battle arms of the “information war,” the City is considering retreating, permitting the citizens of Falls Church the benefit of its weekly two-page “City Focus” news spread only once a month, and not every week.

Even given the tough economic times, for the City to do what it hopes to in this way will save barely $20,000 a year, which would be a miniscule price to pay for keeping its citizens informed, especially the overwhelmingly vast majority of them who do not follow it on the Internet, where the danger is there of being waylaid by forces of deception and hidden agendas.