U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer, Jr., who represents the 8th District of Virginia that includes the City of Falls Church, raised a toast to the 25th anniversary of the Falls Church News-Press before more than 100 gathered to celebrate the occasion last Thursday night at the City’s Ireland’s Four Provinces restaurant.
Beyer, who had just become Virginia’s lieutenant governor when the News-Press was founded by its continuing owner and editor-in-chief Nicholas F. Benton in March 1991, said “the News-Press deserves the greatest degree of credit for helping create our own Falls Church sense of community.”
Beyer was joined in his salutations to the News-Press by Falls Church Mayor David Tarter and State Delegate Marcus Simon.
In a letter to Benton that he read to the assembled Thursday night, Mayor Tarter said the 25th anniversary marks “an important milestone and achievement that reflects deep commitment and dedication.”
Tarter noted that “along with coverage of local and national issues, the Falls Church News-Press provides the community service of being the newspaper of record for the City of Falls Church as the certified publisher of the City’s official legal notices…Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with a given article, there is no question that the coverage itself promotes debate, discussion and awareness that are the lifeblood of our democracy.”
Del. Simon presented a framed copy of Virginia Joint Resolution No. 343, commending the News-Press, as “an independent weekly newspaper in Falls Church that has served the community for 25 years by providing local news and acting as the city’s ‘paper of record,’ committed to social justice and an active partner in community affairs.”
He said he enjoyed including in the resolution the fact that it was named the “Best Remnant of the Liberal Media” by the Washington City Paper, in addition to being named the City of Falls Church Business of the Year (twice).
In addition to Benton, the resolution acknowledged Jody Fellows, who began working at the paper in 1996 and has been its managing editor since 2001.
Benton followed with his own brief remarks of appreciation for the 25 years in Falls Church, including to everyone who’s contributed to the paper and his current staff, all of whom were present.
“But more than just a celebration, I hope people are paying attention tonight to the news that a good local newspaper can still survive and make it,” he added, “Because print newspapers continue to be a vital component of democracy.”
He said there is direct correlation between the decline in print newspapers in the U.S. and the rise of incivility in public affairs and politics. “Newspapers set a high standard for civility of discourse for an entire community that is essential to a functioning democracy,” he said.
He made similar remarks to the annual banquet of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce last Saturday night when the newspaper was also honored there for its 25th anniversary, and Benton cited the “symbiotic” relationship between the newspaper and the Chamber of Commerce that was there from the beginning to promote commerce and local businesses by providing a viable platform for small business to advertise their wares.
Rep. Beyer’s comments last Thursday were poignant because his own history as a Falls Church businessman that included his role as a president of the local Chamber of Commerce in Falls Church prior to being sworn in as Virginia’s lieutenant governor in January 1991, just before the News-Press came into being.
He had a column in the very first edition of the News-Press, and enjoyed the paper’s endorsement as Falls Church’s “Favorite Son” in his successful race for re-election as lieutenant governor, unsuccessful bid for governor and successful run for Congress in 2014.
Because of the News-Press, Beyer said, “We are no longer a sleepy urban village. Families come and go. Our schools evolve and grow. Broad Street no longer has a tree canopy shading its length, It is the Falls Church News-Press that has bound us together as a community, giving us a sense of place, a position in time, and a sacred record of our history. Tragedies and triumphs, frustrations and satisfactions, old and new and old again – all are given to us on a newsprint platter every Thursday for 25 amazing years.”
Others among those present Thursday were Former Delegate Jim Scott, F.C. City Manager Wyatt Shields, Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly and Council members Phil Duncan, Karen Oliver, Letty Hardi, Dan Sze and David Snyder, Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones and board member Lawrence Webb, Sheriff Steve Bittle, Treasurer Jody Acosta, Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton, Planning Commissioners Lindy Hockenberry and Melissa Teates, Chamber of Commerce executive director Sally Cole and board chair Joe Wetzel, Creative Cauldron’s Laura Hull, Clerk of the District Court Paul Ferguson, the Tinner Hill Foundation’s Ed and Nikki Henderson, Falls Church Episcopal Church Rector John Ohmer.
Among comments that were written Thursday were ones which said, “With your vision, your tenacity, your perseverance, you have had a lasting impact on the community,” “Thanks for giving voices for our kids in Falls Church,” “Can’t imagine Falls Church without the News-Press,” “Congratulations on 25 years and so many weeks battling on behalf of the people of Falls Church,” “Thanks for providing a great reason for Thursday to be the best day of the week,” “The FCNP has truly been a force,” “Please continue to be the great community resource you have been,” “Without you, nothing,” “You are a big reason this beautiful, cohesive community is a community.”
Copies of the new book, “Falls Church News-Press, the Front Pages, the First Five Years 1991-1995,” were on display, and a commemorative handout for all present included Benton’s essay, “A Short History of the Falls Church News-Press’ First 25 Years.”