Degner To Launch Harrisonburg Times

Brent Finnegan -- February 28th, 2010

Mayor Kai Degner is putting together a local news organization in reaction to what he and others deem deficiencies and biases in the local news media. The first post on Harrisonburg Times cites the Daily News-Record’s editorial bias, website paywall, and a lack of in-depth reporting on WHSV as reasons to start something new.

. . . 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 . . .

The website is expected to become active in April.

For my part, I will likely have little or nothing to do with Harrisonburg Times (though there may be opportunities for collaboration). I’m overextended as it is, and I’m putting any spare energy I have into growing hburgnews.

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66 Responses to “Degner To Launch Harrisonburg Times”

  1. Apparently I’m still not making my point clear enough. I agree with you, Karl, that Council coverage needs to happen. I’m not advocating ignoring it. What I’m saying is that not all content is equal. Some content (the bloggy, non-original, “fun” stuff) should remain unpaid. But the bloggers doing original reporting (sitting through the log meetings, slogging through government documents, etc.) should be compensated for their time by readers.

    I like your idea of crowdsourcing the agenda items to focus on.

  2. Frank J Witt says:

    Bandit ~ It’s called Twitter…

  3. Brandon says:

    Who’s this Dave Briggman guy? He posts in every publication in town. Mostly negative. Gets really old.

  4. Brandon, Dave is a staple of the local opinionsphere. Google “David Briggman”

  5. “opinionsphere”? Did you just coin that one, Brent?

  6. I wish I could take credit, but I’m sure I read it somewhere.

  7. JGFitzgerald says:

    Brandon,

    Briggman is likable enough in person, but he knows what he knows, not what anybody else does, and often, when someone on a blog is not fortunate enough to share his elemental certainty, he lets his sorrow turn to anger. Others could describe him in fewer words, as I’m sure he could me.

  8. Brent,

    Just googled it. As two words it goes back to at least 1987, but as one it seems to only go back to July 2008, with an apparent explosion of recent usages.

  9. Harvey Yoder says:

    How might the hburg news or the Harrisonburg Times become a venue for some in-depth investigative reporting?

    One of my current concerns is the number of people in our prisons who are no threat to public safety and could and should be working to pay fines, court costs, costs for their drug testing, etc., as well as providing for their families (and actually paying taxed like the rest of us) rather than the rest of us footing the $25,000 annual cost of keeping them locked up at a time when our state coffers are empty.

    As just one example, I am currently in contact with a local citizen who has been out of prison, employed and drug free for over a year and who is to be tried on Monday in Staunton on a Class 6 felony charge for having several pieces of a broken plastic tooth brush holder in his possession while in solitary confinement at the Middlebrook Regional Jail two years ago, and where he was also charged with tampering with the sprinkler system in his cell, a prison infraction. He is being told he needs to plead guilty to the felony (and face more time in prison) or plead otherwise and possibly be charged with a parole violation that could mean years of past suspended time needing to be served.

    Of course all details of this kind need to be investigated, and there is often more than one side of a story, but I could cite numerous examples of alleged racism and injustices in our prison and court system that I find appalling.

    My question is simply, what benefit there is to locking anyone in an overcrowded steel cage at a cost of thousands of dollars annually where there is no evidence that our community is any safer for it?

    The DNR will certainly not investigate this kind of story, and it may be difficult for a mayor sponsored news organization to cover anything like this, either, in that it would put under scrutiny a system of incarceration (not correction) that operates under the City Council and Board of Supervisor’s jurisdiction.

    I’d be glad for some more conversation on this.

  10. seth says:

    harvey,
    i tend to agree with you here but i’m not sure the guy who was trying to make a shank while in solitary confinement should be your poster child.

    i used to think that i could easily be a reporter until i started talking to actual reporters and realized that even if i could, the equation of time invested + stress for your efforts does not equal any kind of satisfactory compensation, even if you do love what you do. does anyone know if there are regulations requiring media outlets to carry some sort of liability insurance? i think it’s great to have smaller news providers, but i am curious what will become of them when someone inevitably threatens a law suit because a story was mirepresented/misreported.

  11. Harvey Yoder says:

    Seth, Thanks for your response, but this individual simply stepped on the toothbrush holder in a fit of frustration at being kept in isolation for days without explanation. Of course, I’m hearing only his side of the story, but even if he intended to do harm (though he has no history of violence, only of illegal drug use) the issue of elementary justice and fairness is still important to me, and should be for all of us, as is the issue of alternative sentencing for non-violent crimes. You can google “Virginia State Task Force on Non-Violent Offenders” for some common sense proposals.

  12. seth says:

    thanks harvey, good information there. and i apologize for assuming the worst about the individual you mentioned. my proclivity for extrapolation is just one of many qualities that tell me i’d have a difficult time as a reporter.

  13. I have a bit of a problem with the mayor (or any politician) back the formation of a news publication. Many complain about the DN-R’s bias in one direction, but there is an obvious conflict of interest here and I feel that no matter how many “pledges of honesty” are made, nobody in an elected office should be involved in such an endeavor.

  14. Phil says:

    Did King George accuse Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, et al, of conflict of interest? Probably.

    I can see it now…. CITIZEN KAI! ro-o-se-b-u-u-ud..!

    Where is Orson Welles when we need him? I suppose I’ll have to subscribe to NetFlix to see how all this comes out.

  15. Josh says:

    Harrisonburg Times was launched yesterday:

    http://harrisonburgtimes.com/

  16. I attended the launch party Friday evening and am not sure if I’ll do a whole story on it or not. There were about 30 attendees, several of whom stood up to speak about their hopes that Harrisonburg Times would provide balance and highlight things about the city that might otherwise get missed. Degner said that they are waiting to get more paying members and/or more one-time contributions before hiring freelance reporters, but that people can and have already submitted unpaid content to the site.

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