Thoughts on keeping the Cape Gazette local, independent

January 7, 2022

This is a letter to my faithful readers through all of the Barefootin’ decades. Thank you so much. Writers crave an audience, and you all have been the best.

I’ve often jokingly said that I helped found the Cape Gazette, with Trish Vernon, so I could write this column about whatever I wanted to write about. You’ve stuck with me, and for that I am eternally grateful.

My dearly departed friend Bruce Hefke, wise man that he was, often said, “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

Both statements are true – think about them – and they come to mind as I ponder the recent sale of the Cape Gazette to Co-Publisher and General Manager Chris Rausch.

A number of years ago I took a stab at a politics column to run now and then. Ron MacArthur photographed my mug to run with the column, more recent than the one used with my Barefootin’ column. Fredman’s much better at keeping his People in Sports mug shot current.

A few weeks after the column debuted, a reader called up and was talking to someone in our newsroom. His comments eventually made their way to me:

“I like the Barefootin’ column that Forney fellow writes. And I like that Politics column that his father started writing recently.”

Was my older photo that dated? Clearly it was. Time does fly.

Not long after, Bill Trifillis – a local pharmacist – and I were talking about some sort of ache or pain or condition I was trying to relieve with a pill or a potion.

“I don’t know what’s going on, Bill. What do you think?”

He smiled a little before he answered.

“Have you looked at the calendar lately?”

That old saw about time and tide waiting for no man also fits squarely in the true column.

Reaching even further back, Trish and I started working together at The Whale newspaper in 1975. Becky Palmer – Stump’s wife – managed the office. We were in Jim Horn’s Confidential Services building at Five Points where the tire store now stands.

One day, Becky overheard conversation about how quickly time goes by. She laughed at hearing us young’uns talk. She was old enough to be our mother. “You think it goes by fast now; wait until you get older like me. Then it will really fly.”

It must be a Doppler effect kind of relativity thing. When you have fewer years ahead of you than you have behind you, they just seem to go by more quickly.

That’s why when we realized we were actually not getting any younger and time really was taking its toll, passing the Cape Gazette on to a younger generation made the most sense. Chris Rausch and his family represent that younger generation.

As a newspaper publisher, Chris, and all the Cape Gazette staff, are not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission or any other governmental agency when it comes to what appears on the pages of the newspaper or on its website. The First Amendment to our nation’s Constitution – guaranteeing freedom of the press – makes sure of that. With that freedom, however, comes great responsibility. The Cape Gazette and all newspapers are liable for what they publish. That’s why truth, already mentioned many times in this column, is so important.

The Cape Gazette is not only responsible for what it publishes, but is equally, if not more importantly, accountable to its readers, its advertisers and all of the community it serves. That’s why preserving local and independent ownership was essential as we considered the Cape Gazette’s future.

We know that if local and independent publishers don’t act fairly, truthfully and responsibly, they will hear about it on the streets, at the Little League field, on the beach, in the grocery store and church, and wherever else they circulate in day-to-day living. That’s the way it should be, with accountability at the local level just like with the rest of the local marketplace.

If we don’t act right, the market will put us out of business.

Despite the occasional and inevitable fallibility that comes with being human, meeting that responsibility is what we’ve strived for during more than four decades of publishing and journalism, first in the community we dubbed Saltwater Sussex at The Whale, and then for the last 27 and a half years at the Cape Gazette, in the community we dubbed Delaware’s Cape Region.

To me, newspapers are the quintessential American enterprise. As a newspaper, we exist to provide fair and accurate information to our readers so they can participate as informed citizens in our democracy. To exist and remain profitable, newspapers have to build engaged readerships by providing an informative, accurate and entertaining package of news and advertising that will keep people buying the paper and subscribing, and give businesses a return on the advertising dollars they spend with the paper.

That’s pretty much it. Thanks again for reading this column.

Keep the faith, spread a little love around, and share my confidence that just as surely as fruit flies like bananas, the locally owned and operated Cape Gazette will keep on serving this amazing community long and successfully into the future.

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