Well, with one municipal election candidate forum over, it remains difficult to assess the public’s overall interest or participation in Fayetteville’s upcoming municipal election. This is not surprising. Candidate forums are valuable – especially if you have a good turnout of residents. However, once you separate out the participating candidates, their family, friends, campaign staff members and the personnel of the sponsoring hosts, it makes you wonder who in the audience is really a registered, taxpaying resident there to be informed and enlightened.
Reaching and communicating with the local masses has always been difficult. This year’s candidate forum hosts, the Greater Fayetteville Chamber and The Fayetteville Observer, are advertising and promoting that they will broadcast the event live on Facebook.
Really? Well, obviously the Observer doesn’t want to miss this excellent opportunity to solicit “likes” on its Facebook page. But effective communication? I think not. Social media is good for sharing information; however, it is not an effective medium for building an audience of loyal, informed and caring constituents. Not only does it lack reach, but it also lacks sincerity and credibility.
If Facebook and social media were, in fact, effective and credible media sources, the Oct. 10 primary election would not have had such a dismal and disappointing turnout. Again, in all fairness, social media can be a good means of communication once a relationship has been established. That is, of course, if fact-checking is not your thing. People who rely on the internet and social media for their news and information are by far the most uninformed and misinformed people.
What the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community needs more than anything else is a local TV station that practices journalism’s basic Fourth Estate standards. A daily newspaper with management and staff entrenched in local matters and committed to these standards would also be a valued asset. For the most part, we live in a community that is uninformed about what is going on around us. Why? Because we lack access to responsible local news and information on a consistent basis. This breeds skepticism and apathy toward our Fayetteville and Cumberland County leadership. This situation curtails citizen participation and community involvement.
Even in the most ideal of circumstances, it takes a focused and dedicated effort to be an informed voter. In Fayetteville, it takes a lot more effort due to limited access to local news and information. It is a sad situation that leaves the resident on his or her own to figure out what the issues are and what the truth is. This task is very difficult, and many people just stop trying. The result? Apathy. Many new families moving into our community don’t even start! The perception becomes reality. We just make it too hard to get to the truth. This year’s candidate forums are a good example. No offense intended, but it looks like we are going backward when it comes to exploring relevant issues and gaining insights into the qualifications and motives of local candidates.
Last year, the Greater Fayetteville Chamber was on the right track. It took control and created a candidate’s forum that was a multimedia event promoted and marketed throughout the community and involved journalists from WRAL TV, Up & Coming Weekly and The Fayetteville Observer.
This forum was a widespread community and media event supported and hosted by several local businesses and organizations. It was also promoted and televised on FayTV. The results were impressive and complimentary to all involved. This year, it seems we have lost that momentum at a time when Fayetteville is on the cusp of economic growth and becoming a more respected major metropolitan city. Can it happen? Will it happen? We’ll see in the next few weeks.
I have tracked Fayetteville’s progress, accomplishments and development for over 21 years. I have built a successful publishing business by accentuating the good and unique features of our local quality of life. No one is in a better position to recognize and applaud the good works of the people, businesses, organizations and opportunities that have come before us during the last two decades.
However, collectively, these good works and accomplishments pale in light of the hundreds – maybe thousands – of missed opportunities our county and city have endured because divisive sectors in our community refuse to give up their silos and cooperate and communicate for the betterment of all.
Only honest, trustworthy leadership along with a huge dose of integrity will enable our community to seize the right opportunites and continue our forward momentum. And it will all be on the ballot come Election Day in November.
So, do your part. Read the newspaper. Listen to the radio. Attend the forums. Ask hard questions. Seek out the truth. Be informed, and vote.
Once the last ballot is counted, I cannot promise you will get what you want, but this community will certainly get what it deserves. It always does.
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