If you’ve committed a crime or been in a high school play in Centreville in the last 19 years, Bonnie Hobbs has written about you. If you’ve done pretty much anything in Centreville — opened a restaurant, held a fundraiser, run for office, closed a restaurant — Bonnie Hobbs has written about you in the Centre View newspaper. She is a copy-churning machine of information.
And it’s great that the people of Centreville recognize this. On Saturday, she is being given the Citizen of the Year Award during the annual Centreville Day activities. Community reporters, not only Hobbs but those who work for the Patch.com sites and for the various weeklies in our area, work extremely hard to cover the local news that SOME MEDIA ignore, and provide a valuable service that, too often, isn’t valued.
Hobbs has been working for the Centre View, part of the Connection Newspapers empire, since 1993, and for five years before that she covered Manassas for the Journal and Connection papers. She writes 10 to 15 stories a week, about everything under the sun, and takes pictures too. This week, she has stories about a Chantilly High event to recognize helpful local businesses; a detailed preview of Chantilly’s presentation of the musical “Urinetown”; the haunted trail in Clifton; and a rundown of Centreville Day which somehow omits her own award. And then there’s her crime coverage, which gives new meaning to the term “in detail.”
Hobbs “has consistently chosen to report on the community as a multifaceted whole,” wrote Cheryl Repetti of the Centreville Day Planning Committee, “and with sensitivity to the effect her stories might have on the lives she covers.”
Hobbs, a mother of two and grandmother of four, is a Bay Area native and graduate of San Francisco State University. She worked for local newspapers in the San Bruno area in high school and college, then got married and became an itinerant “Marine wife” for years while raising her family.
In 1988, when her travels brought her family to Virginia, she began working for the Prince William Journal, a weekly paper, and her journalism career was restarted. She moved to the Manassas Connection in 1992, but when that paper folded, she moved to the Centre View in April 1993, where she’s been ever since. More recently, she’s also had to write for the Connection papers in Fairfax and Burke as well.
Steve Hibbard, who was her editor at Centre View for many years, recalled that, “When the economy was doing well in the '90s, we used to have 56-page papers that we did, practically the two of us. Both of us would spend the night of deadline at the office without any sleep, putting finishing touches on stories, getting as many names of people in the newspaper as possible. We defined our success by how local-local we could make the papers. That's how committed and caring she is.”
But besides all the ribbon cuttings and school plays, Hobbs really likes covering crime stories. “It’s so dramatic,” she told me, “unfolding right in front of your eyes, great quotes, and it’s real life.”
Hobbs is something of a fixture in the Fairfax County courthouse, sometimes manically bouncing between several courtrooms at once, her legal pad in hand. She disdains the standard stuffy court attire for jeans and sneakers, in part because she’s probably off to cover three other things after this hearing is done, in her car with the “REPORTR” license plates. She has never hesitated to remind me over the years how much harder she worked than me.
And she was right. She writes story after story, and often has the luxury of lots of space for these stories, particularly court stories. Long, detailed court stories. And she will follow a case through hearing after hearing, year after year, until that burglar or bad check writer or murderer is finally brought to justice. Not only will you get arrested in Centreville, but you will be written about time and time again in Centreville. By Bonnie Hobbs.
“I certainly don’t do it for a big salary,” she said. “I make less than a starting teacher in Fairfax County. I do it for the community, for the people who call me up and say, ‘We’re raising money and it’s going to a good cause.’ That’s why you do it.”
Repetti said that in Centreville, “both Bonnie and her stories have become an integral part of the community.” So true. She will be honored at the opening ceremonies of Centreville Day, 11 a.m. on Saturday, and you can get all the necessary info here.