PREVIEW EDITION issued December 20, 2018

We're almost ready to begin

The first regularly scheduled edition of our online newspaper will be e-mailed to you on Thursday, January 3. Subsequent weekly editions will be posted every Thursday after that.
Receiving this "PREVIEW EDITION" means you're already on our list of subscribers.
And yes, you'll continue to receive these dispatches FREE of charge.
We do ask for your help in building our circulation. Simply forward the link to to anyone and everyone you know who might be interested in what we're doing. Be sure to instruct them to sign up as a subscriber by responding to the e-mail link at the bottom of this page.
One purpose of this preview edition is to make sure we're properly connecting to you and to see what needs tweaking in the electronic composition of this publication.
Your questions and suggestions are always welcome by e-mailing me:

What's this all about?

For more than a year now, The News & Observer has deprived us of a local newspaper: first by replacing the basic content of its Smithfield Herald with "leftovers" from the N&O's cooking section and then by ceasing publication of the Herald altogether.
That has hurt our community immeasurably, and me personally as I was a third-generation editor of the Herald until 1994, when I voluntarily left the company (then owned by Raleigh's Daniels family) to "test the waters" as a free-lance publisher. Who would have dreamed of the paper's demise in the years that followed?
The Smithfield Herald as we once knew it is gone. What I'm doing by launching the Smithfield Weekly Sun won't come close to the Herald many of us remember. But this is an effort to start the rebuilding process. How far we can go remains to be seen....


from the editor

During my early years with The Smithfield Herald, Rotarian Jim White recruited me to be a volunteer bell ringer for the Salvation Army's
Red Kettle campaign at Christmastime.
As you can see here, I'm s
till doing it along with other members of the present-day Rotary Club that Jim established.
Another Christmas tradition of bygone Herald days was publication of the famous Yes Virginia There Is a Santa Claus editorial from The New York Sun in 1897 --- a monumental piece about faith that transcends the Jolly Ole Elf. Here's a link to the content of that piece.

Christmas in Downtown Smithfield

Here's a present-day view along Market Street looking westward toward the Community Christmas Tree in the Public Library's courtyard and the Johnston County Heritage Center (the original home office of First Citizens Bank):

By the way, the Town of Smithfield has installed a real-time "webcam" atop Town Hall at the corner of Market and Fourth streets. Here's a YouTube link to the camera's live streaming. Like the photo above, the camera's view is also westward.

When flooding blocks the Greenway

The view below of the Buffalo Creek Greenway was recorded beside Buffalo Road at noontime on Wednesday of this week, when the Neuse River level at Smithfield was measured at 14.44 feet, just below the official "flood level" of 15 feet. Despite frequent alerts put out by the National Weather Service, flooding at Smithfield isn't much of a problem (other than putting portions of the Greenway under water) until the river rises well beyond a depth of 20 feet (Hurricane Matthew produced a record depth of 29 feet here). You can track real-time readings of the Neuse at Smithfield on a web page maintained by the Weather Service. It provides current river levels as well as projections a few days ahead that proved to be highly accurate during Hurricane Florence and other recent rain events. That web page also lists historical high-water marks here going back to 1908! Click here to go directly to that page.

Earlier school start next summer?

The Johnston County Board of Education voted unanimously at its monthly meeting last week to seek permission from the N.C. General Assembly to open the 2019-20 school term earlier than the August 26 date required statewide. For 2018-19, Johnston County Schools have shortened the fall semester to end before Christmas, adding the "lost time" to the spring semester to meet the total number of instructional days required by the state for the entire school year. Through "local legislation" adoprted by the General Assembly, school systems can secure a waiver from a rule that the fall semester start no earlier than the Monday closest to the 26th of August. Johnston's school board didn't specify a starting date in their request for the waiver but did recommend that next year's calendar "mirror" the opening of fall-semester classes at Johnston Community College. August 15 was opening day at JCC last summer.

Local government coverage crucial

Full coverage of our local governing boards will be the initial focus of the Smithfield Weekly Sun. That means attendance by this reporter at all meetings of the Smithfield Town Council, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, and the County Board of Education --- from beginning to end. We haven't had media coverage even close to upholding that standard for at least a decade now.
Toward that goal, the first edition of the Weekly Sun two weeks from now will include published agendas for meetings the following week: the County Commissioners on Monday, January 7; the Board of Education and the Town Council on Tuesday, January 8. The Weekly Sun's edition of January 10 will give you a complete report on the proceedings of those three boards.

What's coming after all that?

Other coverage priorities of the Weekly Sun will be additional items neglected by the region's shrinking public media in recent years: school activities including sports, honors and awards for outstanding citizens, news about locally owned and operated businesses, community-betterment efforts by churches and civic organizations. And yes, we'll be providing a "public forum" for opinions from responsible readers about topics of local concern in addition to weekly commentary from the editor.
All of this will help fulfill an important long-term mission of community newspapers to publish what many have called "the first draft of history." Smithfield and its citizens have many important stories to share, but what good are they if the public knows them not?

--- Wingate Lassiter

For more information about our community, including links to local government websites as well as links to current economic data, obituaries, the weather, upcoming events, and other stuff, visit our "online newspaper parent" via the link shown above.

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