It was an unusually balmy January morning when the Bugle landed on doorsteps—the mercury hovered near a record 70 degrees. The temperature wasn’t the only thing running high; political tension in the county had also reached a boiling point.
An unprecedented number of development threats were on the horizon, and the CFFC Board of Directors knew they needed an unprecedented way of getting the community involved. Decades of outreach had prepared them for this.
Communications tactics have been as plentiful as CFFC’s causes. The archives are overflowing with a panoply of colorful flyers, forum invitations, and countless newspaper editorials. Each one of them repre-sents hours of volunteer time spent meticulously researching and carefully writing materials to educate and engage the public.
In early 1997, CFFC was fighting bad development deals on all sides. A pricey proposed jail, a 17-mile sewage pipeline threatening the Rappahannock River, and a new Walmart were all on the Board of Su-pervisors’ docket. With so much at stake — and so much to say — the CFFC Board found themselves feverishly writing letters and printing flyers. But there were only so many editorials the Fauquier Times-Democrat or Fauquier Citizen would publish.
So, CFFC decided to print their own paper. Naturally.
They called it the Bugle. And not before or since has a free publication caused such a fuss in Fauquier County.
With a biting wit and singular tenacity, former NASA publicist Julian Scheer took on the majority of the work it took to put together the Bugle. Other CFFC members and some citizens pitched in with articles and op-eds. The advertisements and classifieds were satirical (“For Sale: Fauquier County, Virginia”).
The first Bugle appeared on doorsteps (about 21,500 of them) and businesses (an additional 2,000 copies) on that warm January morning in 1997. A cartoon appeared above the fold: three BOS members as pup-pets with their developer puppet master looming behind them, tightly gripping the strings. The headline read “Our Puppet Government.” The following four pages detailed, in a similarly frank tone, the current threats to the land and livelihood of Fauquier County.
Response came fast and furious.
CFFC supporters, and those who felt strongly about protecting the quality of life in the county, loved it.
CFFC detractors—well, CFFC detractors weren’t pleased.
Both the Times-Democrat and the Citizen published responses to the Bugle. The Democrat took umbrage with the look-alike nature of the CFFC effort, and the Citizen published quotes from an offended BOS.
Hurt feelings aside, the Bugle had a real impact. Four days later, more than 600 people showed up to the county forum addressing the development issues, where they had an open floor to express their opinions to the BOS.
An issue of the Bugle also turned up at a subcommittee meeting of the Virginia General Assembly concerning the sewage pipeline and transfer from the Occoquan Basin into the Rappahannock River in Fauquier County.
In all, nine editions of the Bugle were printed, the last to announce the defeat of the Auburn Dam in 2001. Understanding the paper’s potential to create collectivity, CFFC used it sparingly and strategically, during times of crisis and to rally the troops.
Today, citizens may read our newsletter, the Monitor. It’s somewhat more polite in tone, but still lives up to the Bugle’s tagline: “All the news that causes a fit.”