What they say about the Hook

Since its inception, the Hook has shone a spotlight into the darkest corners of our community, forcing us to confront issues that most would just as soon ignore. This unwavering commitment to telling the truth, no matter how unpopular or difficult, is what George Orwell considered a revolutionary act, and we have been blessed to have revolutionaries among us such as Hawes Spencer, Lisa Provence, Courteney Stuart and Dave McNair. We are better off because the Hook called the county to task for installing red light cameras that do little for safety while fattening the government’s coffers. They questioned the mindset behind police shootings of unarmed citizens, ABC raids of college students buying bottled water, and lockdowns of residential streets. And they reminded us of the incongruities of using an assault team of 10 agents to raid a 39-acre farm, supposedly because a military helicopter spotted a solitary marijuana plant growing wild in a yard. Without a doubt, Charlottesville will be worse off for the Hook’s absence. My only hope is that those remaining outposts of freedom in this town— both activists and journalists— will continue to call for transparency and accountability and keep a small light shining in the darkness.
—John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute





Charlottesville likes to fawn over its Goliaths and is overly enamored with its status quo.  Thanks to the Hook, we know the stories of the scrappy Davids who are questioning authority and fighting for positive change around these parts. That's a real service the Hook has provided and their journalism will be sorely missed.
— Dave Norris, Charlottesville City Councilor and former mayor








What can I say that's printable? I'm very aware a lot of people look to the Hook and it's been a good part of the community dialogue, but not something I always agreed with.
— Sally Thomas, former Albemarle supervisor










A community is always poorer when a good news outlet dies. So the UVA Center for Politics joins everyone in mourning the loss of the lively Hook. We congratulate the staff on a job well done for many years, and bid them, as well as the publication, an affectionate farewell.

The Center for Politics has always been fond of one particular cover story in the Hook. Yes, the Center was on display, and that's one reason! But the Hook got right to the heart of a vital matter, and in four little words asked what many people are thinking every election season: Why bother to vote? The article gave some compelling answers.  You bet it matters. Look at the current race for governor. Everyone complains about both major-party candidates. But the choice will make an enormous difference; rarely if ever have two potential governors differed so totally on a wide range of issues.
— Larry Sabato, Director, Center for Politics







The Hook's coverage of UVA's "troubles" was magnificent as measured even against the highest standards of journalism. The Hook— and the Cavalier Daily— should have shared a Pulitzer Prize for it. In short— as was true in many other instances— Hawes, Lisa, and their team "showed up at the showdown."
— Dan Jordan, former president, Thomas Jefferson Foundation








Some articles were interesting to read, and I enjoyed looking at the Hook. I will tell you that a number of times the Hook had a point it wanted to make and didn't let the facts get in the way.
— Jim Camblos, former Albemarle Commonwealth's Attorney








As an editorial subject, a fan, and a sometimes news-partner of the Hook, I was saddened to hear of the paper’s impending demise. Over the past decade, I had many opportunities to interact with the Hook’s writing staff and editor— there was none more objective or fair in their presentation of the story. I never feared being misquoted or mischaracterized by Hook reporters, and for me, that is a unique experience in all Charlottesville media.
Rob Schilling, host of The Schilling Show





When my kids started reading, we brought home the Hook and that's what we read with them— as appropriate or inappropriate as the subject matter might be. Their favorite part was the Question of the Week. Sometimes they'd see people they knew.
—Llezelle Dugger, Charlottesville Clerk of Court







Watching the Hook grow up was one and the same as watching Hawes Spencer grow up. When the paper first started, it was snarky, taking potshots at erstwhile competitors C-Ville Weekly and the Observer. A lot of that attitude had spilled over from C-Ville Weekly, and C-Ville Review before that. But it was magnified, too, by the small-town explosiveness of Hawes and company's departure from C-Ville Weekly. The Hook even ran the spicy sex-advice column "Savage Love," and occasionally risqué comics. But as Hawes's children aged, and the Hook grew, the paper began to find its voice. "Savage Love" was censored, and then disappeared. Each issue's leading roundup of single-paragraph summaries of local stories credited competitors when they got the scoop. The Observer went under. The snark gradually disappeared. In the place of snark came a new, passionate viewpoint about Charlottesville.

The Hook was one of the earlier papers in the country to adapt to a new, web-based model of publication. Rather than shoveling the contents of each print issue onto the website once a week, the paper adopted a web-first approach, publishing stories online days in advance of going to print. This gave a slice of the readership a chance to respond to articles and new information to come to light, which seasoned and aged the story prior to its final publication. Truly, the Hook was an online news publication. Once a week, they simply rounded up the best stories from the website and printed them on paper.

True, sometimes the Hook could be sensationalistic, at least in comparison to the Daily Progress or C-Ville Weekly. But it always seemed to me that sensationalism came from the staff's passion for stories, and a genuine belief that they were doing the Lord's work. Somebody who didn't feel particularly excited about dredging versus building a higher dam (e.g., me) might be inclined to think that the Hook was making a mountain out of a molehill, but even a brief conversation with Hawes on the topic would reveal that he was quite certain that it was a mountain of a story.

I don't know what will happen to fill the void left by the loss of the Hook. I hope that the Daily Progress, C-Ville Weekly, and Charlottesville Tomorrow will become more aggressively investigative, more passionate, and hire writers with the local roots, experience, and knowledge that Dave McNair, Lisa Provence, Hawes Spencer, and Courteney Stuart brought to bear at the Hook. But I fear and expect that nothing will happen, and the loss of the Hook will be the loss of what it provided to the community.—Waldo Jaquith, creator of open government websites Richmondsunlight.org and ethics.org

The Hook has been my favorite Charlottesville newspaper and it has been the newspaper for a real dialogue between races. On a very personal note, my business was Dogwood Housing, a family business with my wife, brother and sister-in-law. Decent housing for low-income and under-served people, in my opinion, is a civil rights issue. The Hook was always in my corner. More personal: The Hook featured me on the cover of the September 19, 2013, issue with the story, “Life & death: A child’s-eye view of Jim Crow Charlottesville." I am 85 years old; I have been mentioned in the Hook many times, and in other newspapers. But never have I received so many calls from blacks and whites complimenting the Hook for its story about me.
— Eugene Williams, founder Dogwood Housing

1 comment

Breaking news! People featured on the cover of the Hook in favorable articles are really going to miss the Hook's hard-hitting brand of journalism!

Yeah, it's really C-VILLE that's become the local puff weekly. Time to switch out the lights and go home, guys.