April 24, 2009
By Al Van Huyck
It was with great sadness that I heard the news that The Blue Ridge Leader was shutting down publication, another victim of the recession and declining ad revenues. The paper has always held a special place for me. I wrote 60 “View from the Ridge” columns in the 1990’s and published multiple “Letters to the Editor” since.
It was the late Phil Hahn’s commitment to having a free flow of ideas and debate about the issues of the day that made the paper special. To me it was a forum, much like family and neighbors sitting around the kitchen table, to exchange ideas and the local news of the day in western Loudoun.
The Blue Ridge Leader started a quarter of a century ago. Only the Loudoun Times Mirror covered western Loudoun then, but now multiple papers are distributed each competing for limited ad revenues. Now one voice will be silenced.
It seems particularly sad because the paper has its best staff and is offering the best coverage in its history. The current raging hot debate on the controversial Taco Bell well illustrates the point. Through articles and battling letters to the editor The Blue Ridge Leader has informed its readers of the issues. This is the job of newspapers and the paper has consistently met this challenge.
Western Loudoun is facing multiple threats and challenges. Today, and tomorrow, we will need to challenge the PATH power line alignment, find better locations for future western schools, stop the environmental degradation of our mountainsides and landscape, seek clean water to drink, support agriculture and rural businesses, and praise and challenge our Board of Supervisors as needed. Who will pick up the struggle, define the issues, and propose solutions when The Blue Ridge Leader is no more?
The burden is squarely on all of us who love western Loudoun and have a deep vested interest in its future. We need to speak out and have our voices heard, trying all the harder now that The Blue Ridge Leader is gone.
So it is time to say “goodbye” to The Blue Ridge Leader. Let’s remember Phil Hahn and thank his widow Jane Ann Simpson for their service to our community through their paper. And thank the staff who has worked so hard to bring us the news and wish them well in their future activities. Let’s hope that the spirit of the paper will live on with all of us as we seek to preserve the unique assets of western Loudoun for ourselves and future generations.