Our push to keep Last Word local

I spend a lot of time swimming in the Last Word pool, and for a long while the waters have been pretty choppy.

In my long experience in the news business, Last Word is a unique undertaking. For more than 30 years, the Virginia Gazette has published anonymous comments from readers on issues and topics of the day. The rules have been simple: keep it civil, no personal attacks.

As someone who sees all of the comments, Last Word offers a view of our community's concerns and joys that I doubt few others are privy to. It — and you — has also been a great source of news tips. Thank you.

The past year or so has presented many challenges, one being the erosion of the quality of discourse in Last Word. Not surprisingly, much of it has mirrored the national political conversation.

In that time, many of you have written asking that we eliminate or marginalize political commentary in the Last Word, something I declined to do, thinking we all need to have our say. I thought things might quiet down a bit after the election, but they've only gotten louder.

In fact, the national volume has gotten so loud, that what is unique to us — living and working in Williamsburg, York and James City counties — was getting lost. Make no mistake, the national debate and discussion are as important as they have ever been, but the first job of a local news operation is to pay attention to what is local.

So, what does that mean for Last Word?

We'll focus more on comments on local topics and less on national issues.

Note: I did not say we're abandoning national issues. I did not say don't bother to send comments on national issues.

What I am saying is I'm going to be choosier in selecting comments about national issues, the president and his policies, the rallies and protests.

I fully expect to hear from you on the Senate confirmation hearing on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, as well as other important national news of the day. But I also hope to read your comments on things happening here at home that affect us now: Olwen Herron was named W-JCC schools superintendent this week, the fabulous American Revolution Museum in Yorktown officially opens in March, the I-64 widening project is headed this way, and sometime soon the Army Corps of Engineers will decide whether to issue the permit for the power lines that have been under discussion for years.

Sometimes, I think I spend too much time here writing about the Last Word, but then someone reminds me it's the first thing people read, the one thing they can't put down.

Let's keep it that way.

Please, share what's on your mind: keep it civil, no personal attacks — and try to keep it to about 100 words.

Send comments to lastword@vagazette.com or call 757-345-2300.

If you have a bit more to say than Last Word accommodates, we're always interested in your letters to the editor. Aim for about 250 words there and we need your name and address — we'll only publish your name and locality.

Send letters to letters@vagazette.com or to me the The Virginia Gazette, 216 Ironbound Road, Williamsburg, VA 23188.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Bellows is editor of The Virginia Gazette. You can reach her at pbellows@vagazette.com or by phone at 757-345-2347.

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