Fauquier Times-Democrat changes its name, nixes 'Democrat'

(AP) -- { }The Fauquier Times-Democrat, a newspaper that traces its roots nearly 200 years, announced today it is changing its name due to the increasingly divisive political landscape.

In an editorial the newspaper said it would become known as the Fauquier Times. The editorial said having the word "Democrat" in its name in such partisan political times "is no longer a very astute business decision."

Executive Editor Bill Walsh, who writes the editorials at the 14,000-circulation paper, told The Associated Press the decision was made to reach new people moving into the community who associated the newspaper with the political party. That's not the case, he said, pointing to the paper's endorsement of Republican John McCain for president in 2008 — the last presidential endorsement it made.

Walsh said the idea came from the paper's circulation department, which was increasingly rebuffed because of the political assumption.

"Perceptions are hard to fight sometimes," he said. "Looking at trying to make a living doing this, you don't want to chase people away from reading your product when the reason they're not reading the product is not really a reason at all."

The county in Virginia's horse country — about 45 minutes from the nation's capital — is far from Democratic.

While some neighboring exurban localities such as Prince William and Loudoun have swung Democratic in recent elections, Fauquier stayed steadfastly Republican. The GOP has easily carried Fauquier in each of the past four gubernatorial and presidential elections, averaging at least 60 percent of the vote. The high water mark for Democrats during that span was 43 percent shared by Tim Kaine in winning the 2005 governor's race and President Barack Obama in winning his first term in 2008.

The newspaper traces its roots back nearly 200 years to the Palladium of Liberty, which began publishing in 1817. In 1905, the newspaper became the Fauquier Democrat. In 1989, it changed its name to the Fauquier Times-Democrat to more closely identify with owner Times Community News.

The newspaper is published twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Walsh said the paper has been tossing around the idea of a name change for a couple years, and that it ran the possibility by two focus groups about two weeks ago. The overall feeling was that the effect would be modest.

"I would say the majority of the people here, when they talk about the paper, they talk about 'the Democrat,' they don't talk about 'the Times-Democrat.' We're still going to hear that for years to come," he said.

As of mid-morning, he said the paper hadn't received any calls about the name change.

"The news coverage is not changing," Walsh said. "The editorial pages — I write editorials and I'm fairly liberal — that's not going to change. I'm going to still have the same opinion on the issues of the day facing our readers. We hope to continue to stir a pretty lively debate."