June 19, 2013

A Fauquier county newspaper, after:


And before:


It’s not a huge story, said Executive Editor Bill Walsh. People are making a bit too much of it. It’s just a routine business decision. “It’s not that big a deal,” said Walsh in an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog.

Perhaps, but it’s also irresistible: The Fauquier Times-Democrat has subtracted its “Democrat,” leaving just the “Fauquier Times.” Walsh announced the move in an editorial explaining the history of the newspaper’s name, and the rationale for the change:

[I]n an age which is, perhaps, more shaped and informed by political identity than any other in our history, having a word in our banner that is so associated with a political party is no longer a very astute business decision. The same could be said if, for the last 24-plus years, we had been the Fauquier Times-Republican.

So Republican Fauquier residents were turning away from the newspaper on account of the tilt in its title? That’s hard to say, said Wells today. He and newspaper staffers picked up some feedback on an anecdotal basis that “newcomers” to the county may have had a “misperception” that the paper was aligned with the Democratic Party. They didn’t want that. “There is great interest . . . within this organization to get newcomers into the county to subscribe to the paper and become part of the community and we don’t want to have anything that might dissuade them,” said Wells. Fauquier has steadily voted for Republican candidates in recent gubernatorial and presidential elections.

Whatever the case, Walsh insisted that the paper’s news coverage hews to the middle. “The Fauquier Democrat and the Fauquier Times-Democrat, at least in the 39 years they operated under the aegis of the Arundel family, had nothing to do with Democratic Party politics. When last we endorsed a candidate for president, the Times-Democrat’s editorial support went to Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008,” read the editorial on the name change.

Originally the Fauquier Democrat (having debuted in 1905), the paper became the Fauquier Times-Democrat in early 1989, the better to align the paper’s title with publisher Times Community News. So the paper has had this partisan-sounding name for nearly a quarter-century. What about June 2013 has prompted the no-more-Democrat move?

Partisanship, of course. “We live in a politicized world, I think,” said Walsh, who oversees a newsgathering staff of 10. “It’s more a part of the everyday conversation whether you’re a conservative or a liberal or tea party . . . ,” he says. The hyper-partisan atmosphere, he said, dates back a decade or so.

The Fauquier Times, based in Warrenton, Va., has a circulation of 14,000 and is published twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s part of a family of papers — including the Loudoun Times-Mirror, Culpeper Times and Gainesville Times — whose names now more closely resemble its new and cleaner moniker, which was a prime mover of the change, said Walsh.

But what about the costs — we’re talking about new signs, new stationary, new everything! “The expense is minimal,” according to Walsh, who said the paper will change things gradually. “If we did it all in one fell swoop, it might cost a few bucks.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.