I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigation of the hiring of a full-time executive director for the Valley Community Services Board. Having served on several boards in the past, I’m sure that there are some details regarding the hiring that we’ve not been made privy to and may not be.
What I want to do here is comment on the investigation itself. The reports of the death of community journalism have not exactly been exaggerated. Staff cuts and hiring freezes and the like have been hurtful to local papers across the country, including here in the Greater Augusta market. Even here at the AFP, which didn’t exactly have much room to cut, we’ve had to refocus our priorities in order to survive, and that’s meant a painful reduction in in-depth investigative journalism, which takes time and thus gobs of money to support.
To cite an example from our recent past: We spent upwards of nine months looking into the hiring of the new Waynesboro voter registrar in an investigation that concluded that the hiring was done in violation of the spirit if not the letter of the law. That no action was taken as a result – the local Commonwealth’s attorney’s office declined to pursue the matter further being key among the lack of action from the officialdom – is beyond the point.
Good journalism isn’t done to have heads roll or win awards. It’s done for its own sake, mainly because it has to be done.
Here’s to hoping that local newspapers continue asking the hard questions and demanding answers. Somebody has to be willing to tell the emperors when they’re naked.