Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Old Friend Seriously Disappoints

Joyce Waugh, center, at a ribbon-cutting.
I have known Joyce Waugh and considered her a friend for more than 20 years. Joyce has been loyal and generous with both me and the magazine that Tom Field and I own. She has written for FRONT, suggested stories, given critiques and she has even put an arm around me on occasion and told me to tone down, something I need.

Friends, by their very nature, can hurt each other and this week I was hurt by an action Joyce took, one that could represent a serious threat to Valley Business FRONT, the magazine I co-own and love (see story here). I will never believe that Joyce entered into an alliance with Virginia Business magazine in order to hurt me or the magazine. I think—and she said—she did it without thinking there might be consequences for me and FRONT. When I called her about it, she seemed taken aback. “But your magazine is so different from Virginia Business,” she said. She couldn’t imagine we’d be competitors, even though both of us have “Business” in our mastheads.

The alliance of the chamber (along with the Roanoke Regional Partnership, whose director I’ve known since she was in college) and Virginia Business represents a misfortune for more than Tom, me and FRONT. It sets a dangerous precedent—and continues a disturbing trend by large institutions in this region—of thoughtlessly going to out-of-the-area sources, almost as a conditioned reflex, in order to get work done. The chamber alliance was accomplished without even asking us—and several other local publications—if we’d like to bid for the contract.

The unique nature of the alliance extends to the publication's Roanoke offices being located inside the chamber of commerce. That suggests more than a loose partnership.

At FRONT, we have fought the battle for local companies for four years and we did it for 20 years before that at the Blue Ridge Business Journal. The talent in this region is as good as it is anywhere, but those handing out contracts often overlook our homegrown businesses—as the City of Roanoke did with such disastrous effect in renovating the City Market Building, and now having to correct the renovation—to the detriment of us all.

FRONT represents a few jobs and a few vendors (notably a local printer which we contract even though we could get the printing done out of the area for much less) and Virginia Business says its office here will be staffed with a local editor and ad sales person. That does not make it local. The decisions will come from Richmond, much as the decisions for the declining local newspaper come from Norfolk. You can tell the difference. It’s like comparing Clear Channel to 101.5 The Music Place in Roanoke. One’s distinctly local, the other is programmed in Texas for a national audience at the lowest common denominator.

As I’ve said over and over, thinking local starts with thinking. Joyce says she wasn’t thinking and I believe that. I also forgive her.

 I don’t quite know what one has to do to convince people that thinking local is in their own best interest in most cases. It stabilizes the local economy, creates local jobs (so your kids can stay near home when they graduate and you can find a good job, too), keeps institutional memory in place (if you think that’s not important, look at the daily newspaper) and gives our own people a sense of their importance, rather than telling them somebody from outside needs to do the job because … well, whatever “because.”   

I don’t buy it. You shouldn’t either.


  1. Dan -- I'm very sorry to hear this -- The Front and YOU are the voice of local businesses in the Roanoke Valley and as you said, have been for many years with the Front and the Business Journal. Keep up the good work -- many of those ideas that look and seem big don't work out -- they don't last for the long run. And I believe YOU and the Front will be around for a long time. Local businesses will be loyal to you!

  2. Thank you for the lovely sentiment. We don't plan to go anywhere. We're simply disappointed that "buy local" isn't being taken seriously in all the places where it is important.

  3. Please tell me who "Anonymous" is.

  4. hm...i have an idea. i will give you a shout

  5. Christine: Please do. I'd love to hear from you. My e-mail address is