Over 150 close friends and well-wishers of the Falls Church News-Press and its founder-owner Nicholas F. Benton crowded into the News-Press’ office yesterday to celebrate the weekly newspaper’s 1,000th consecutive edition.
Since its first edition in March 1991 the newspaper has not missed a single weekly edition. In a retrospective published in this week’s edition, entitled “1,000 Wednesday Nights at the Mighty News-Press,” Benton wrote that his decision to make the paper a weekly was not made until the day after the first edition rolled off the press. “I think forward from then to how I and those working with me have spent every Wednesday night, our final deadline night, since. I’ve never been able to shake free for anything else on a Wednesday other than putting each week’s paper ‘to bed.'”
“So for me,” he concluded, “I am thinking my autobiography, at least for the last 20 years of my life, may be called, ‘Never On Wednesday,’ since that’s been my mantra now for 1,000 consecutive weeks. And counting.”
Among those present at Thursday night’s celebration were Virginia State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple and State Del. Kaye Kory, former Falls Church Mayors Brian O’Connor, David Snyder, Daniel Gardner and Robin Gardner, Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields and former City Manager David Lasso, leaders of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce ranging from Cdr. (Ret.) Robert S. “Hap” Day to its current executive director Sally Cole, numerous present and former members of the Falls Church City Council and School Board and abundant other friends of the paper.
Putting their names to a lengthy list of dignitaries and friends congratulating the News-Press, most published in this week’s edition of the paper, included U.S. Senators Mark Warner and James Webb, U.S. Congressmen James Moran and Gerald Connolly, Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Virginia State Legislators James Scott, Adam Ebbin, Whipple and Kory, Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope Gross and a total of six former Falls Church mayors, along with other prominent names such as former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe, legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas and Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir.
Three original copies of the first-ever issue of the newspaper were raffled off Thursday. Former Falls Church Mayor and current Vice Mayor Snyder spoke, hailing the role of the News-Press as the institutional memory of Falls Church that researchers far into the future will refer back to for their information about the area.
Benton said that the paper’s “best story” was its successful effort in the mid-1990s working with the Chamber of Commerce (when Benton was its president) to end years of acrimony between Falls Church’s business and residential communities. “Through our editorial and other efforts, we caused a paradigm shift in Falls Church where each of these two components suddenly realized the value of each to the other,” he said. It introduced an era that led to the most aggressive new development in the City’s history, which has helped to buoy the City’s ability to maintain its excellent schools and services in tough economic times.
Benton also said that, notwithstanding the page-one-headline battles over development and related issues, it has been the paper’s weekly publication of community and school items of interest, citing the achievements of countless citizens and young people in the area, which has been at the core of the paper’s mission and its success. “It is also the newspaper’s role to particularly stand up on behalf of the underrepresented in society,” he added.
Written comments to the News-Press on the occasion included a letter to the editor printed in this week’s edition by Michael Hoover, retired after over 30 years as an English teacher at the local George Mason High School who wrote a weekly column for the News-Press through much of the 1990s. He stated at the time of the paper’s founding he found in Benton “a true, dyed-in-the-wool, old time journalist…try(ing) something I had always only dreamed about: start his own newspaper!” He concluded, “Through his sheer grit and his journalistic savvy…Nick persevered and here, today, is eloquent truth of a job well done and a career well realized.”
Supervisor Gross wrote to Benton: “I remember when you first broached the idea of my writing a column for the News-Press…Since September of 1997, I’ve written 14 years of weekly columns…which comes to over 700 columns and more than 350,000 words…I am pleased to be a part of the News-Press family.”
Former City Manager Lasso wrote, “No hometown is complete without its own hometown newspaper of record. We’ve got ours.”
“For two decades, the News-Press has been an invaluable contributor to the sense of community, and fostered informed and intelligent debate within the City of Falls Church,” wrote developer Ed Novak.
“Over 1,000 issues, the News-Press has woven itself throughout the fabric of the Falls Church community and the people of the city are better off for it,” wrote David Meredith.
“The most important thing about the News-Press for me are your thoughtful and provocative articles each week,” wrote Peg Lorenz.
“You have a winning formula and not only keep us well informed but also provide direction for our community,” wrote Robert McCan.