There used to be
a widely held belief —now largely viewed as quaint in the hallways of
entertainment, media and sports — that, in the “Town Square” of public
opinion, it was important to establish and protect “your good name.”
Translated, “your good name” meant honesty, effort, sincerity, good-naturedness,
humility, and in the best of cases, all of these.
A good name was
difficult to earn but easy to forfeit; it was often gained through years of
living in and contributing to a community’s business, cultural, religious
and political life, in ways large and small.
when “bad” means “good,” and any publicity is viewed as good
publicity, and taunting your opponent is a strong career move, the notion of
humbly building and maintaining a “good name” seems, sadly,
you’re holding was born during this earlier time, in 1946, in the giddy
aftermath of a world pulled from the brink of ruin by the dedicated efforts
of men and women of the “Greatest Generation.” In this rosy afterglow,
electric cooperative leaders in Virginia founded a publication, a full
broadsheet newspaper actually, that was (and is still) intended to keep you
up to date on the electric cooperative that you and your neighbors own.
Then called Rural
Virginia, it captured the all-things-are-possible mood of the time in its
stories about progress in farming techniques and technology. Inside the
farmhouse, it joyfully covered all the new-fangled appliances that were
transforming rural domestic life from a daily grind of hauling water and
hanging wash to a labor-saving life of warm bathwater and cold meats, dairy
products and produce, perishable no more!
The 1950s saw
Rural Virginia adopt a more contemporary magazine format, though still using
newsprint paper, while the 1960s saw the addition of glossy paper and the
occasional use of a second color in its graphics. The ’60s also saw
coverage in the magazine of how the expansion of electricity into rural
areas was creating a burgeoning population boom, as urbanites sought exile
from all the woes of the cities in Virginia’s countryside and small towns.
resonates more loudly than ever today, in the 21st century, as electric
cooperative service areas grow on average twice as fast as areas served by
the large power companies.
In the 1970s, the
magazine began regularly using full-color photos and artwork, and changed
its name to Rural Living (though some long-time readers still refer to us to
this day as Rural Virginia, evidence of loyalty that obviously delights us).
The magazine also began covering the serious issues surrounding the oil
embargoes of 1973 and ’79, as energy-efficiency articles became a regular
staple of the magazine.
featured an expansion in the magazine’s standard size of 24 pages, up to
32 and 40 pages, fueled by national advertisers finally recognizing the
buying power of Virginia’s, and America’s, heartland. Also during the
’80s, the magazine intensified its coverage of local people and places, a
trend that continued through the 1990s, as the magazine celebrated its 50th
anniversary in 1996 and in ’97 added a feature that remains our most
popular to this day: “Down Home.”
In these profiles
of small towns, crossroads communities, tidy villages and emerging suburbs,
we try to take our 350,000 readers on a trip to meet “some of the folks
who make up the heart of electric co-op country,” as we say in the heading
to each installment of this series of visits across the Commonwealth.
Virginia, at least the Virginia outside the cities, is still, even with all
her growth, a small big-state.
And, to usher in
what we called “The Cooperative Century,” we changed our name for the
third (and we hope, but cannot guarantee, final) time, to Cooperative
Living, in January 2000. The magazine’s size continues to grow, to 60
pages per issue on average, as does the use of full-color, which now
saturates virtually every page.
But the splashes
of color, and the growing page count, must never crowd out what we are all
about, which is representing in print the good name that electric
cooperatives have built in every corner of the Commonwealth.
So, to answer the
question posed in the headline, what’s in our name? Well, we hope that
there’s a lot of good in it, whether it’s in a thought worth pondering,
information on the cooperative you own worth having, an energy tip worth
pursuing, a place in Virginia worth visiting, or simply a smile that comes
from reading a day-brightening article.
Through all the
metamorphoses we’ve gone through — newspaper to magazine,
black-and-white to full-color, Rural Virginia to Rural Living to Cooperative
Living — we hope we’ve established and, just as importantly, have
maintained a good name. We hope we’re viewed as honest, upbeat, informed,
entertaining, open to new ideas but cherishing the best of the past. Kind of
like the folks who made, and make, Virginia’s rural areas, small towns and
suburbs such great places to live and work.