4The privilege to vote is one of our most precious rights as Americans. Yet, we fail to take advantage of this essential aspect of living in a free democracy. In Fayetteville/Cumberland County, our voting record is much worse than in other communities, and there are substantial reasons for this disturbing and frightening situation. For those of you who read this newspaper regularly, I will apologize in advance because for over 25 years, I have commented and opined on this very subject dozens of times. I have articulated my concerns, and even though they have been acknowledged by prominent state and local public servants, all have failed to stimulate even the slightest attempt to solve or resolve the problem. So, once again, I will outline the sources of our low and apathetic voting turnout. These are the same reasons that inhibit our community from showcasing its assets and touting our quality of life.

Part of the issue is that we have no local television station. Over two decades ago, Fayetteville and Cumberland County leadership failed to acknowledge the importance of having a local TV station. First, city and county elected officials preferred operating government in the shadows, away from the observing eyes of the public. Secondly, our local daily newspaper, the Fayetteville Observer, was enjoying a monopolistic heyday, parsing out and re-shaping the local news. They garnered the majority of local advertising dollars spent by businesses and organizations. So, it didn't take long for them to realize the benefits they would enjoy from the demise of our only TV station, Channel 40.

Unfortunately, the rest is history. All the major networks (ABC, NBC & CBS) jumped at the opportunity to corral this market of over 300,000 with a bonus of Fort Bragg. Other cities saw the benefits and potential of this growing market, while our leadership chose to ignore it. Why is this significant? Because as a media source, a local TV station is a hub from which all other media communications radiate into the community. Residents, visitors and guests rely on local network television for information, education and awareness.

Without it, citizens have no collective way to effectively understand or know the people, issues and circumstances that affect their daily lives. So, you may ask, what does this have to do with our inherently low voter turnout? Everything. Especially when only 16% of Cumberland County registered voters turn out at the polls, as was the case with the primary election.

Local citizens do not know about the people running or the community's problems. They do not know the candidates who are running for elected office. With this being the situation, why would they come out to vote? It's not apathy on their part. They don't have trustworthy news and information that local television provides on a city and country-wide basis. Without TV, it dilutes the effectiveness of other media resources: newspapers, radio and billboards, because there is nothing there to stimulate local interest and help "connect the dots." This lack of visibility makes it difficult, if not impossible, to assess or vet political candidates. Low voter turnout is only one of the ill effects. This media void encourages a lack of transparency and invites corruption and misdeeds at all levels leaving a community vulnerable to disaster. Look no further than the Town of Spring Lake for the near-perfect example of what happens when a community is without a TV station or legitimate form of media. Jason Brady wrote a comprehensive report on the Spring Lake situation in last week's Up & Coming Weekly edition. Read it. News coverage discourages voter fraud and exposes ill-qualified candidates and, in some cases, those who are corrupt or have criminal intent.
Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches make up the state of our government. The Fourth Estate (the media) is what is supposed to keep them in check by reporting their actions to the American people. Without media, you invite tyranny.

At Up & Coming Weekly, we continue to fill the media void to serve our community readers with news and information and to keep this from becoming a media desert. With your help and the grateful support of our partners and advertisers, Up & Coming Weekly will remain free on the newsstand and free to online subscribers. We also will remain a consistent resource for what to do, where to go and how to enjoy the amenities offered here in Fayetteville/Cumberland County. You can depend on us.

With ongoing partnerships with the Carolina Journal, the Carolina Public Press and CityView Today, we are able to provide news and insights on important local, regional and state issues affecting our readers. These three organizations, along with our own writers, reporters and editor, serve as the local media to keep you informed with honest, up-to-date news you can use and trust. Together we are proud to be a community vanguard against government waste and tyranny. Subscribe, write us, call us, support local and original stories, help support media and good journalism, but, most importantly, make an effort to seek out the truth. Think local, read local, support local.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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