Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

A telephone survey, and subsequent column in The Washington Post, got me thinking more about the past, present, and future of newspapers, and the press and journalism overall. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read a newspaper every day, weekends included. Starting the day without a newspaper at breakfast creates a gap that can confound me the rest of the day. The tactile feel of the paper, the distinctive aroma of ink on paper, the “struggle” to fold the paper into readable squares or rectangles – are part of my morning routine. Perhaps it is a habit, but reading the newspaper grounds my day, capturing what may have happened previously, as well as planning activities and setting goals for today and coming days.

The phone survey asked, “how do you get your news – newspapers, television, radio, social media?” Depending on the answer, the next question asked to identify the name of the news purveyor. Quite frankly, I didn’t recognize many of the titles listed, but they did reflect the myriad of languages and cultures in our region. The “Press” section of my Rolodex (yes, I still depend on an expansive old-fashioned Rolodex!) includes business cards for Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Spanish language print reporters, who can do a very good job of bringing local news to their readers.

Our location in the white-hot global center of politics means that the focus of much of our news is national and international, and local activities are pushed aside in favor of the latest indictment or scandal. Don’t get me wrong. My affection for newspapers over other sources is that newspaper articles can drill down on the issues and provide background information that broadens understanding of an issue – if you are willing to spend time reading. Too often, I’ve found, people glance at the headline and assume they know the story, and the outcome. A good reporter, and editor, can lure you into the heart of the story, not unlike an adventure. The Washington Post column referenced above focused on a small-town weekly, the Rappahannock News, in rural Virginia, and the mostly positive local news that it publishes. Anniversary celebrations, a new eatery opening, life passages, civic meetings are the kind of everyday activities that occur in all communities, and need to be highlighted, lest we lose track of all those things that make up our local communities.

Locally owned newspapers, like the Falls Church News-Press, are becoming a rarity as conglomerates in search of more financial profit or message control gobble up what used to be independent sources for news. Keeping that local focus strengthens neighborhoods and improves communication, and reminds us that we have a lot to appreciate and support as divisiveness and political polarization swirl at the national and international level. It’s the local stuff – traffic, getting the kids to school, grocery shopping, what to have for dinner, laundry, whether today is an in-person or remote job day – that occupies most of our time, effort and, perhaps, frustration. Even in the National Capital Region, we all are local in some way, and the local newspaper plays a significant role. Let’s keep it that way!

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at


  • Penny Gross

    Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at