Local news keeps us in our lane

Published 6:24 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

An election year in Virginia means lots of politicking.

In hustling for votes, candidates are finding their way to Isle of Wight and Surry for picnics, fund-raisers and stump speeches. Their handlers, and supporters, often invite The Smithfield Times to attend, and each time we politely decline.

A reader this week suggested some political bias because we didn’t cover a recent Smithfield visit by Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin. For the record, no one told us about it in advance, but we wouldn’t have covered it regardless. His opponent, Terry McAuliffe, will be in town at some point, and Democrats surely will cry foul about the lack of coverage. On this policy, we are equal-opportunity offenders.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

We can’t and don’t cover political candidates’ campaign events for several reasons.

One, we don’t have the manpower to attend them all, and if we covered any, we’d have to cover them all. Two, candidates need to be purchasing advertisements to get their messages out instead of milking newspapers for free publicity while spending all of their money on television ads. Three, we are a hyperlocal community newspaper that simply doesn’t have time or space to devote to staff coverage of statewide campaigns and politics. Happenings in Smithfield, Isle of Wight and Surry keep our small staff hopping.

Our policy on campaign event coverage has served owner and Publisher Steve Stewart well in three decades of community newspaper publishing. It may or may not have been the policy of prior owners of The Smithfield Times, and we respect publishers who have different philosophies and approaches.

As the fall election gets closer, we will have thorough coverage of local races, including the hotly contested Carrsville District seat on the Isle of Wight County School Board and the House of Delegates race between incumbent Emily Brewer of Suffolk and challenger Michael Drewry of Surry.

As space permits, we’ll provide some info on gubernatorial, lieutenant governor and attorney general candidates, but we recommend larger news organizations for thorough coverage of those races. We have our hands full with local news.