Editor’s note

When news breaks in Fluvanna, people turn to the Fluvanna Review.

Website traffic and Facebook hits jump through the roof when an event, such as a burglary and shooting, occurs. That shows us that you – our friends and neighbors – are looking to us to explain what happened.

And we do. We drop everything and drive to the scene, snap up press releases, and grab our phones and dial the county’s top players, regardless of weekends, holidays, or dinnertime with kids. We do this because you deserve to know what happened.

Hassled decision makers, busy at such times with trying to keep the county running, sometimes grimace at our calls. But they – usually – take our calls anyway, because they know they owe you an explanation. This is the service we provide for you.

Reporters can make pests of themselves. To be a reporter is to be flattered and glad-handed, but rarely liked. People are suspicious, worried that anything they say can and will be used against them. It is lonely being sought after and guarded against.

But contrary to what you might think, reporters are the best secret keepers. We know what to leave out of our stories and what to put in. An edgy comment over a controversial issue makes the cut because people deserve to know how powerful decision makers think. A tidbit from someone’s personal life is left out because people deserve their privacy. And we keep that trust, because a bridge burned is a bridge burned forever.

We are the paper of record for Fluvanna County. Because of that, we can’t miss an issue. The paper always goes to press. That means even on holidays we all show up, dragging our kids behind us if they’re off from school. In 2015 two serious tragedies struck Fluvanna on the Fourth of July. I left a cookout to dash down to a press conference to find out what had happened, bawling constant updates into my then-editor’s ear as he tore himself away from his own celebration. Our families were not amused. But that is the life of newspaper folk.

Running a newspaper takes more than just time – it takes money. Though I know you don’t think of us this way, we are a small business. “Support local business” is a mantra that most people have come to value. But though people don’t usually see us through that lens, we are one of those businesses that need support.

Ask yourself – what would Fluvanna look like without the Fluvanna Review? We bring you breaking news coverage, in-depth government reporting, a look inside the school system, and a mix of all the funny, odd and troubling events that unfold within our county every week. And we do it all for free. We don’t charge a penny for the Fluvanna Review.

Advertising remains our only source of revenue. We deeply appreciate every advertiser who contributes money to our paper so that we can continue to bring you the best detailed coverage of Fluvanna County found anywhere. We are a solid small business because of these advertisers.

People sometimes don’t want to spend money on advertising. When budgets are tight, advertising can be the first thing to cut. People think they can publicize an event, a fundraiser or a business for free – and they turn to us to aid in their quest.

The problem is, we can’t.

If we give away advertising for free, we undercut the very thing that allows us to function. Just as the fire and rescue squad needs cold hard cash to continue to operate, so do we. Without money to pay the printing bill, the reporters, the designers, and the other expenses small businesses face, we would have to shut our doors. Then you would be left without a newspaper.

People can get angry when we sorrowfully decline to provide them with free advertising. They see it as something we should do if we truly care about the community. Actually, it is because we care about the community that we cannot afford to do that.

Fluvanna residents often express to us a sense of ownership over the paper. People have told me of promises they have made to others of photos or stories we would include in our pages. I bite my tongue to keep from asking, “Did you also promise we’d give them a million dollar prize?”

I smile as I think this because it delights us in the newsroom to feel the sense of ownership that you all have over our paper. The Fluvanna Review is a community newspaper, and the fierce ownership some people express to us only confirms that fact.

But walking the fine line between providing free coverage to every worthy event and ensuring we have enough money to continue to operate is enough to drive me distracted. I’ve had people in my office, indignant because I’ve refused them free advertising, say to me, “But this is a worthy cause!” or “But we’re not even trying to make any money!”

Yes, I say, but you still need to advertise.

The Fluvanna Review deeply values worthy causes in the community. That’s why we provide our community calendar completely free of charge, though it costs us staff time and printing. Events that are written up in 50 words or less find their platform in this widely-read section of the newspaper.

Our commitment to the community also moves us to provide lower advertising rates to nonprofits. We don’t charge people who are driven to help others as much as we charge those out to make a living, though both are vitally important.

We do accept submissions, though we can’t guarantee they’ll be published. We like them because we can’t be everywhere and you are our eyes and ears. But if our paper is packed tight and it comes down to a choice between paid advertising, reporting we paid to obtain, and a free submission, we will cut the free submission.

If it absolutely has to be in the paper, it needs to be an ad. The benefits of placing an ad are enormous. You – not us – are in control of what is said about your business, event or charity. And thousands of people will read what you have to say. We print 6,550 papers that are distributed throughout Fluvanna and in multiple locations in Charlottesville, Zion Crossroads, Albemarle and Louisa.

Unlike other news outlets, we don’t just drop into Fluvanna whenever something’s afoot and hightail it out of here when it’s over. We live here and work here. We are your friends and neighbors. We run your honor rolls – free of charge – so you can cut out your children’s names and send them to their grandparents. We cover your high school sports and senior citizen events. And when we cover hard news, such as crime and politics, we do it with an in-depth knowledge that takes years of familiarity to build.

Help us help you. Support your local businesses, including the Fluvanna Review. The entire community will thank you.