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An Opinion Page Where Yours Are Valued More Than Ours

The recent departure of Ken Woodley, whose words graced – and dominated – this page for three decades, begs the question that many of you have asked in recent days: What now, and is to come, of the Herald’s Opinion page?

A few thoughts:

This page will be more for you than for us – and never for pundits in the national media or out-of-state interest groups who haven’t a clue about people in the Heart of Virginia. We will offer our own opinions about important questions facing the community, but your views are more important than ours. We want our Opinion page to be a marketplace of ideas about Farmville, Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland. We also welcome our readers’ take on state, national and international affairs.

Your views will be published in two forms. Letters to the editor should be 300 words or less. Letters must be signed and must include a phone number and mailing address; only the writer’s name and hometown will appear in print. More in-depth opinions of up to 750 words are encouraged for use as guest columns. Guest columns should be accompanied by a photograph of the author and a one- or two-sentence biographical sketch. We prefer to receive your submissions by email at editor@farmvilleherald.com.

Submissions must not be defamatory or in poor taste. We prefer opinions on issues rather than personalities. We also discourage submissions about individual, consumer-oriented disputes with businesses or organizations. Those are best addressed in court.

Our own opinions also will take two forms. Each edition will contain an unsigned editorial that represents the official position of the newspaper. Several writers on our staff, including me, will pen the words, but the viewpoint will be that of our newspaper as an institution in the community. That position will be the product of careful deliberation by me and others on our staff who live, work, worship and pay taxes in the community we serve. As publisher, I will stand behind that position at all times.

Individual staff members will also write personal columns, such as the one you are reading, that reflect the opinion of the author only. Mine will run on Fridays, usually tucked away at the bottom of the page, both literally and symbolically beneath the opinions of you, our readers.

Brevity will be a guiding principle. You are busy people who are bombarded with information from many sources. We will not overwhelm you further. Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about effective writing, once said: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” We will choose our words carefully and make our point in as few words as possible so that you can get on with your lives.

We will not travel rigidly in the left lane or the right, but in the sometimes lonely middle, where sincere people of all beliefs must often meet to find common ground. The local issues on which we will be entirely focused rarely invoke the liberal/conservative ideological wedge that poisons national politics. Our litmus test will be what’s right for the community we serve. When you disagree with us, and you surely will, we believe you will at least understand the position we take and respect the sincerity with which it was offered.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Farmville Herald. His email address is steve.stewart@farmvilleherald.com.