Coming Soon: The Harrisonburg Times

The Harrisonburg Times is a new media source for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham metropolitan area.

Context

Our local media outlets are a vital part of information exchange in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham metropolitan area.  The Daily News Record, WSVA, WHSV TV3, and others create a wealth of content on a daily basis, and thereby contribute to the public good in many ways.  These organizations also make tremendous in-kind and financial contributions to support and highlight worthy nonprofit causes related to education, arts, youth, and more.

The Problem

That said, there are current barriers to information exchange from our biggest media outlets, the Daily News-Record and WHSV TV3:

  • The Daily News-Record is now pay-only for online content.  This may not be a problem for local people with subscriptions, but it is a problem for local people who want others to know about the information printed in the newspaper – especially our local business, technology, university, sustainability and economic development communities.
  • There is a break in trust between the current newspaper of record and its market.  The editorial stance of the Daily News-Record diverges more and more from the values and opinions of the bulk of Harrisonburg-Rockingham residents.  For all the good the DNR does to inform the public on local issues, its ultraconservative stance is offending and alienating a growing population of people – some who even make it a personal policy to “Do Not Read” the DNR.
  • WHSV TV3, while having online content, is necessarily limited by their medium to have short news stories that cannot provide a depth of analysis that takes more than a few minutes to convey.  They also undertandably favor stories with a visual appeal, which leaves out many stories better written about
  • The online forums of both of the DNR and WHSV are largely unmoderated and have become havens for reactionary, unthoughtful, and ignorant commentary from a relatively few people that incites useless argument.
  • “What bleeds, leads!” is an unfortunate daily reality for the local main stream media because what bleeds sells.  The result is a constant barrage of content that is sensational and focuses more on conflict than substance.If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Solution

The Harrisonburg-Rockingham community is in need of a new and different opportunity to be informed about local issues that impact lives, families, businesses, and politics.  There is also a growing local blogosphere, anchored and made credible by Hburgnews.com.  That single blog is in many ways the only community-driven check and balance to information in the local news, and many times is the only venue for certain dialogue and stories.  The writers, especially Brent Finnegan, should be commended and urged to continue.  Brent’s most recent post indicates a new look is pending.

The Harrisonburg Times aims to become a relevant and valuable contributor of local news and information. The Times will feature political, cultural, business, and educational news, opinion, and features.

There is a growing team of writers who are commited to voluntarily contributing content in many categories.  There is a growing list of advisors who are commited to champion and strengthen this efforts.  And, soon, there will be a growing list of readers.

Coming by April 15

By April 15, 2010, the Harrisonburg Times will have new content on a regular basis.  Until then, there may be some preview stories published.

Get Involved

Writers – We are currently accepting applications!  Click here.
Advisors – To learn more about being an advisor, email editor [at] harrisonburgtimes.com
Advertisers – Your business can advertise here!  Email sales [at] harrisonburgtimes.com for information.

Contribute Financially

The Harrisonburg Times business model will depend on individuals and businesseswho understand the need to financially support an operation.  All early contributions will go towards expenses for developing and advertising Harrisonburg Times.

If you believe we need a new news source, please consider commiting $10 per month via credit card or a one-time donation. Comments welcome below.

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Comments

  1. John Reeves says:

    Harrisonburg TIMES has much potential- lets get word out!
    I’ve tried the $10 subscription Step; but, all I get is an error message. Maybe problem–or just try later?
    Best wishes!

  2. GREAT idea, Kai. I’d subscribe too, but am getting the same error message.

  3. Don Hobbs says:

    Harrisonburg Times is an exciting idea and I found myself immediately willing to contribute until I read this:

    “The online forums of both of the DNR and WHSV are largely unmoderated and have become havens for reactionary, unthoughtful, and ignornant commentary from a relatively few people that incites useless argument.”

    Maybe so, but I am deeply suspicious of moderation if its intent is to exclude comment other than that which might be illegal or violates the community standard as to decency and fitness for inclusion in a “family” forum. Most people are aware of acceptable standards for proper online behavior and if not, can be barred from commenting. BTW, are advisors moderators or serve some other function? Please elaborate.

    • Kai Degner says:

      Hi Don – Thanks for the comment. I agree moderation is something to be suspicious about, and we don’t plan on moderating much besides particularly incendiary comments, which admittedly will create some subjectivity.

      Like you say, there is a balance to be reached to create an environment that welcomes a multiplicity of viewpoints – wanton flaming by a few discourages comments from the many.

      The opportunity at the Harrisonburg Times is there will be a community of readers ready to engage uncensored unthoughtful comments. The Facebook connection should also reduce some anonymous posting, and increase accountability.

      In terms of advisors, this role has a few components:

      1) Represent a local constituency or expertise – Each advisor will be a representative of either a geographic area in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area (e.g. downtown), or a particular topic area (e.g. education), or a particular socio-economic group (e.g. working mom).

      2) Be in communication – Advisors are in communication to share ideas, concerns, opportunities and suggestions.

      3) Recommend content or writers – By being knowledgeable about the goings on at Harrisonburg Times, advisors will be able to offer content ideas and refer writers.

      Some advisors might write, but that’s not the required role of advisors. Anyone interested in being an advisor should contact me at Kai [at] HarrisonburgTimes.com.

  4. Kai Degner says:

    Ok, the PayPal buttons work now – thanks for making early leadership contributions to get this off the ground. The money raised will cover expenses and go towards advertising the Harrisonburg Times. Every contribution makes a difference, especially the monthly pledge!

  5. Andy says:

    Best of luck with the Harrisonburg Times. We’re all excited for an alternative to the current media outlets.

  6. Brian Gumm says:

    Very pumped at the potential for this. Thx, Kai! As a seminarian up at Eastern Mennonite, I’d be interested to see how stories w/ a faith lens could be woven into this venture in ways that transcend “old media” standards, with their underlying assumptions/suspicions about all things “religious.”

  7. Jason Garber says:

    Brian and I were talking about how great it is that this site uses Facebook to connect comments with a real person. Hopefully that cuts down on the anonymous Molotov comments lobbed back and forth on most news websites. When you can enter whatever name you want, you’re not as accountable for what you say. Brian’s more keenly aware of the conflict transformation and tech-influencing-culture scenes than I am: this morning he briefed me on Samoan circles and “intimate anonymity” (a Shane Hipps term derived from Marshall McLuhan concepts, I believe).

    I noticed, though, that one doesn’t have to be logged in to Facebook to leave a comment here. The ordinary WordPress comment form still exists. I’d challenge you to rethink that. Clearly you don’t want to force everyone to have a Facebook account, but maybe it’s worth it to have every comment from a bona fide person with a face, friends, and reputation. It may also help with the moderation concerns some have expressed.

    Also, you should add a comment link below all posts/excerpts on the front page.

  8. Kai Degner says:

    Jason, this is a great point, and the integration with Facebook absolutely is intentional for reasons beyond the visibility: the reduced anonymity ought to go a long way to create a culture of sorts on this online forum that would discourage the unproductive dialogue on many websites.

    I encourage everyone with a Facebook account to indeed login to use comments. When you do so, you’ll also have the option to post your comment and a link back to the article into your Facebook feed for all your friends to read.

    And, as an extra bonus, anyone who logs in with a Facebook account will automically get a contributor account on this website. You will notice (after you are connected with Facebook and this site), and “Add Post” button will appear in the menu bar. You may use that to write and submit content to be posted. Pretty sweet, huh?

  9. Citizen says:

    March 7, 2010
    AN OPEN LETTER TO CONCERED CITIZENS
    Approximately two years ago, in 2008, while incarcerated, I was given a politically motivated “administrative transfer” from the Harrisonburg jail, to the Middle River Regional Jail in Verona, Virginia, after writing to the local Health Department informing them that the facility in Harrisonburg had ceased making available HIV-testing for prisoners. After being housed at Middle River for about three months, I was charged by that facility’s institutional investigator with two separate Class 6 felony charges (near misdemeanors) for: (1) “possession of a deadly weapon,” and, (2) “destruction of a fire system:. The “deadly weapon” was a half-broken $.72 cent toothbrush holder, and the “fire system” was a sprinkler button, with an estimated value of less than $100.00. These charges, although the most minuscule and petty of “offenses” under Virginia law, carry a maximum of 10 years in prison; which I have been threatened with potentially being sentenced to, in the Augusta County Circuit Court.

    I was released from prison nearly a year ago for good behavior after having participated in the VA Department of Corrections’ Therapeutic Community prison facility at Indian Creek Correctional Center, for past issues with addiction and alcoholism. Since my release, I have maintained employment at Tyson Foods Corporation, and have not failed a single drug screen, for which I am tested regularly.
    Consequently, for the very first time, I was recently awarded visitation rights by the courts with my only child, my 5-year-old son, Stephen Thomas. However, the authorities in Augusta County are seeking to prosecute me, now, nearly two years later, for the previously mentioned alleged offenses. The authorities in Augusta County have refused our repeated efforts to simply make restitution for the broken items in question and are intent on sending me back to prison now, during this most stable period of my adult life. Any plea or finding of guilt by the court in Augusta County will result in an immediate parole violation and a return to prison for several years, for me. The devastation that this ordeal would cause my family, myself, and particularly my 5-year-old, is simply unimaginable.

    Because of the clear racial dynamics of this case, given the constant race-oriented insults that I was subjected to by the blatantly white-supremacist correctional officers at Middle-River Jail on the date of the incident 2 years ago, I am desperately requesting the interest, investigation, attention, and support of all sympathetic parties. I humbly request the assistance of the community in bringing these matters to a logical, rational, and amicable conclusion. Our community does not need yet another fatherless African-American child, nor another unwarranted African-American prisoner.

    Thank you for all your time and interest.

    Sincerely,
    Steven L. Thomas

  10. Kai Degner says:

    Steven, thank you for writing. These are the types of important issues we want to bring attention to at the Harrisonburg Times. Soon, there will be a way for you and others to write an official post to share your information. We will be in touch offline.

  11. Harrisonburg,

    I had the pleasure of meeting your Mayor, Kai Degner and discussed with him the Harrisonburg Times. I applaud his efforts to create a forum that foster citizen journalism and conversation.

    I have experienced a similar forum here in my hometown of Sacramento, CA and I know that they do not prohibit content based on a viewpoint but rather rely on the community to help label content offensive or spam. In that way create a really strong sense of ownership.

    I am looking forward to reading more about Harrisonburg !

  12. Dany Fleming says:

    Does The Times have anyone(s) looking to cover the local sports scene? That seems like a pretty large and potent group of followers. It looks like there are a number of respectable local folks blogging on VirginiaPreps.com – a sports blog for Virginia high school sports. The Times might provide a good new platform for them. Does anyone know folks who blog there?

  13. Hood Frazier says:

    This forum for the exchange of ideas is a good place to begin. As someone who is relatively new to the area, I’m looking forward to making more local connections. Also, since I don’t currently subscribe to the DNR, (I found its editorials and positions too right wing), I have not been able to really follow local news, events, and issues as closely as I would like to.

    This, hopefully, may change that.

  14. David Rood says:

    As many of us who have even a modicum of education know, many assertions of the Right-Wing Fringe are based on logical fallacies. In cases where I have confronted them with this, I find that most are completely ignorant of the term “logical fallacy” and are unable to recognize even the basic ones in the arguments they present. Perhaps if we could get the Right to think rationally we could prevent them from being wrong so frequently. A good reference to send hyperbolic right-wing folks you encounter is: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html
    This may not win over hearts and minds but it may shame them into curtailing their idiotic rants.

  15. Jay Bender says:

    I hope that the Harrisonburg Times can reflect two outstanding qualities of Harrisonburg. One is the diversity of the small city. There are so many different ethnic and racial voices to be heard and what a wonderful opportunity the Harrisonburg Times can be. Secondly, with the differing resources in alternative and creative solutions to conflict couldn’t the Harrisonburg Times be an outlet for such peaceful forces?

  16. Jay Bender says:

    I hope that the Harrisonburg Times can give a voice to the smaller rural communities surrounding Harrisonburg as well as the many neighborhoods within the city. As Harrisonburg grows with its big box stores and its chain restaurants I hope that the unique character of the central Shenandoah Valley does not give way to crass comercialism and a loss of regional identity. I hope that many residents of those surrounding areas speak up.

  17. Jay Bender says:

    Through the Harrisonburg Times, how would like to find out in such an agricultural area as Rockingham County if the food banks and food pantries in the area are well stocked. Are school children of needy families feed adequately during the school year?

    Jay

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