Sixth in a series of profiles of those honored as The Best of Reston.
A successful community newspaper does more than just report on the events and issues in the community. It takes an active role in the events and issues in the community.
“We underline community,” said Janet Rems, the managing editor of The Times Community Newspapers. The Reston Times is this year’s recipient of the Best of Reston Award, for “Connecting Our Community.” In the past 40 years, since the paper’s inception, the Times has covered issues critical to the Reston community, but more than that, its reporters and editors have reached out to the community by becoming actively involved, she said.
“I’ve attended every festival Reston has had in the past year,” said Rems. At times she does not attend the events as a representative of the Times, but rather as a volunteer, and simply as a member of the community. At last year’s Reston Fine Arts Festival, Rems did not wear a Times badge or associate herself with the paper in any way, she was simply a volunteer helping out with the festival.
"Sure they cover the news," said Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Reston Interfaith, "but they have also gotten to know the people and the issues." Wilson said Reston Interfaith is given an opportunity to have its voice heard in the community through the Times. The paper provides her with a space for a monthly column, which she uses to educate the public about the issues with which Reston Interfaith is involved.
Rems served on the task force to help the organization look at its mission, and help it get the issues out into the community. "The Times have shown the caring and willingness to dig deeper," rather than just covering the issues, "it's what makes the Times and the people there so special," said Wilson.
BESIDES TAKING AN ACTIVE role in the community by volunteering in many of Reston’s events, the Times has taken an active role in advocacy of some issues. Rems said the newspaper holds the highest standard for objectivity, but some issues are too important to the community to not take a position on.
“It would have been easier to stay quiet on some of those issues,” said Rems, “but one of the reasons why we won the award is because we took a position.”
Karen Monaghan, the director of communications at Reston Association, said she was happy the Times received the recognition it deserves. Monaghan submitted the recommendation suggesting the newspaper be recognized for the award.
“They have always taken an active role in the projects that are important to the community,” said Monaghan. Some of the projects she mentioned included the revitalization of the Southgate Community Center, the Nature Center and the paper has been involved in a number of referenda. “Peter Arundel and the staff at the Times have been more than your local newspaper,” said Monaghan, “they go above and beyond that.” She added the RA has a partnership with the Times and the paper publishes the RA’s quarterly newsletter, which informs the residents of Reston about issues in the Reston community and the decisions the RA made on those issues.
ALONG WITH THE PROJECTS Monaghan mentioned, the Times did extensive work on “40 Stories for 40 Years” project to celebrate Reston’s founders and their principles. Rems asked a number of community leaders and activists to write articles for the paper, so their thoughts can be passed on to the next generations. She said it was important to get the opinions of Reston’s pioneers while “we still have them.” The Times will soon hand over a disc with all of the stories from the project to the Reston Historic Trust. Rems said the project is “helping to pass along Reston’s legacy.” The paper has also been selected to put out the official guides for the Reston Fine Arts Festival this year, which is something they have always done, the difference this year is that they are in charge of the official guides.
Each community that Times Community Newspapers covers, said Rems, is unique and Reston is no different. Rems called Reston an oasis of Democratic politics in a sea of Republican political thought. She said Reston is a community that actively embraces its diversity and is filled with socially aware people. “You have readers who care, who will tell you when you do something right and who will tell you when you do something wrong,” said Rems, “it is a very active readership.”
As far as the recognition goes, Rems said the Times was thrilled with the award, adding that the paper always recognized the Best of Reston to be a great award. The reason why it is so great, said Rems, is it is given by two great organizations. “It means so much to us to be recognized by Reston Interfaith and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce,” she said.