Loudoun cable subscribers have one last chance to get a good look at a dinosaur this summer.
“Inside Loudoun County,” the longest-running program on local cable television, is quietly ending its run on the Loudoun County Government Channel.
I mean no disrespect by calling the program a dinosaur. As just about any young child will tell you, dinosaurs are cool. But their time is over.
And in a media world dominated by YouTube and other social media, the era of local access programming on cable television also appears to be ending. Most cable companies are no longer willing to invest in the production of local programming.
In some ways, I am sorry to see “Inside Loudoun County” end. After all, I helped create the program in 1992, and served as its host for the rest of that decade.
I pulled together the first program at the prodding of George Barton, who was then the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. A former newspaper editor who owned a public relations firm, Barton understood the importance of using all available media to get the county’s messages out to the public.
Not only could cable TV reach people who didn’t read newspapers, it was free to use. The local cable company (then known as Cablevision of Loudoun) provided staff to videotape and edit the programs, which were subsequently shown on the government access channel. There were no costs to the county other than staff time.
The format of the program has remained mostly unchanged over the years, although the show is much more polished now.
In 1992, we didn’t have a cable studio, so we taped the program wherever we could find suitable space. In the first program, I interviewed Barton and Kirby Bowers, who was then serving as Acting County Administrator, at the beginning of what would be his long run as the county’s chief administrative officer. We were seated at a shabby conference table in the old County Administration Building, now part of the courts complex.
Network TV, it wasn’t.
But the interview format allowed us to go into some depth about important local issues. In that first program, Barton and Bowers went on the record about the top issues facing the county at that time – no doubt including the county budget and planning for population growth and development.
Each program aired several times before it was replaced by a new program the next month. In the early years, we occasionally hosted members of the Board of Supervisors on the program, usually accompanied by a staff member, to discuss issues of particular interest to them.
Over time, the series focused more on county programs and services, usually with staff experts as interview subjects. In doing so, we shone the spotlight on programs that may not have been considered newsworthy by other media, but which were still worth knowing about.
Cable companies came and went, but “Inside Loudoun County” kept going. Cablevision was replaced by Adelphia, then Comcast, which has been producing the program in its Ashburn studio.
The series has had just three regular hosts over the years. I turned the reins over to Susan Farmer in 2000. After Susan’s untimely death in 2001 in a car accident, the series took a brief hiatus while we regrouped. Then, in 2002, Nancy McCormick stepped in, and she has served ably as the series host ever since.
The current – and last – edition of “Inside Loudoun County” focuses on two county programs, Project Lifesaver and the Watershed Implementation Plan.
Project Lifesaver is an electronic-based tracking system for people with medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or autism, who have a tendency to wander from home and become lost.
The county’s Watershed Implementation Plan has a unsexy name but an important goal – to develop local scenarios and strategies for reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
For the next month or so, “Inside Loudoun County” will continue to air on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 p.m., with repeats at various times, on Comcast Government Channel 23, Verizon FiOS Channel 40, and Open Band Channel 40. Program webcasts are also archived on the county website.
In a YouTube world, “Inside Loudoun County” may have become a dinosaur, but is a good dinosaur. And now it’s time to say a fond farewell.