OPINION: Long live the Voice!

OPINION • BY JAMIE RASKIN

When I moved to Takoma Park in 1990, there was no Internet. No websites. No email. No blogging. No neighborhood listservs. No 24-hour news. What we had in those days was the Takoma Voice. It arrived without fail at the start of each month, for free and right at your front gate or doorstep — thick and irresistibly full of ink-stained information, local cartoons and photographs, crackling opinion, lively debate and ads from plumbers and massage therapists. You could see people reading it in Old Takoma or at Jequie Park on the weekend. Like the TPSS Co-op, which was then on Sligo Avenue, or the Fourth of July Parade, or TPNYS kids’ soccer, or Mayor Sammy Abbott, or the Folk Festival, it was one of the essential things that made Takoma Park Takoma Park.

The Voice was so good that I had imagined its staff and newsroom as just a funkier version  of the Washington Post, but I soon came to learn that its office was two tiny rooms, bulging with old newspapers and manuscripts, in the building right next to Summer Delights on Carroll and the blessed few people who ran it were old-fashioned journalist/civic activists like Eric Bond, Howard and Diana Kohn and Julie Wiatt — veterans of the civilizing movements of the last century whose beautiful writing and awesome photography were an expression of a broader commitment to community and a passionate love of public things. They welcomed articles and opinions from everyone, and I began to contribute. What a pleasure!

When I ran for the State Senate in 2006, the Voice’s coverage of my long-shot insurgent campaign gave me the visibility I needed to get people to take the race seriously. When we took out ads with lists of supporters in the Voice, people would ask me why their names weren’t included so we would run another ad the next month and it just kept growing. As a Senator, I was thrilled when the Takoma Voice began to publish the Silver Spring Voice. Everyone knows that the hold of newspapers has been eroded dramatically over the last decade by the miracle of the Internet where many former advertisers now just do their own thing online, bypassing print media entirely. A lot of the big-city newspapers have folded up shop.  Even the mighty Washington Post and New York Times look pretty skimpy some days.

But, whether online or in thumb-smudging ink, the Voice can never die because it expresses our irrepressible desire to live in a community of joyful meaning, of mind-blowing poetry, of alive politics, of cultural ferment, and of deep mutual respect. So it is with a sense of renewed purpose that I say: Farewell to the Voice of yesterday and long live the Voice of tomorrow.

On Saturday, April 21, the Voice will be holding a celebration and fundraiser at Capital City Cheesecake in Takoma Park.

Jamie Raskin is District 20’s State Senator and a constitutional law professor at American University.