Sunday, November 1, 2009

Facts about the "Fact Book"

Each year The News Leader publishes its "Fact Book: a guide to Staunton, Waynesboro & Augusta County." The 2010 edition arrived rolled in a newspaper a couple of days ago. Was it bigger than the paper?
The first thing I noticed was that it is easily rolled, having shrunk considerably over the past few years. The 2010 edition is a total of 6o pages counting the covers; 12 of those pages are on glossy stock that, other than the front cover, are all full color ads no doubt demanding top dollar. Speaking of ads, the Leader's sales department, which must be their largest, sold 27 pages of ads. No wonder there isn't a listing of realtors - a bunch of them bought ads, mostly with pictures of themselves. Looks like a high school yearbook.... except more wrinkles and bald heads.
To my dismay, I next discovered there is no table of contents or index. I suppose such frivolous things take up valuable ad space. Okay, with only 60 pages I ought to be able to browse it easily enough. Damn, those newsprint pages keep sticking together.
So browse I did... hunting and pecking like an old rooster through the grist to see what I could find, or not find. Less than 10 minutes revealed:
  • The listing for the Augusta County School Board is inaccurate;
  • The Augusta County General District Court is AWOL;
  • There is a long list of churches, but I have no idea how complete/accurate it is;
  • There are only five Business & Professional Organizations in our community - groups like teachers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, car dealers, etc. are nowhere to be found;
  • Other than a phone number, most listings have little information - usually no website or description. Exception - area colleges.
  • The Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce gets two listings - one under Business & Professional Organizations and another under Helping Agencies.
  • Agriculture? What agriculture? I didn't realize all our farms have disappeared!
I'm sure another 10 minutes could double or triple this list of errors and omissions, but who really cares? While I suppose we should thank The News Leader for putting Fact Book 2010 together, the real fact is that it is virtually useless. Most of the listings for government offices, schools, and so forth are more easily (and more accurately) found in the local phone book. Almost everything in Fact Book 2010 is available online, more up-to-date, and quickly found by by our friends at Google. Even The News Leader has more and better information available in the Data Leader section of their website.
The Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce is a "helping agency?" When you compare them to the other listings under that category - Red Cross, SPCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank - the chamber in no way qualifies as a "helping agency." Helping themselves! In fact, the Chamber of Commerce has become so blatantly partisan and FOXian in the last decade - deriding unions, spreading false information about climate change, trying to kill healthcare reform, attacking Democratic candidates - that it more accurate to call them what they are - a right wing lobby. Oh, I thought they were a wing of the GOP!
But, I digress... back to Fact Book 2010. I'll be putting this edition in the paper recycling. There is no reason to save it for reference and the paper can move on to another and perhaps greater use. TP? Besides, it has already served its true purpose of fattening the bank account of The News Leader.

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