Southampton reassessment needs to be investigated

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

by Don Wilson

I have been reading The Tidewater News since August 1996 when I first arrived in the Franklin-Southampton area.

Journalism, by definition, is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Covering current events, organizations and institutions such as government and business, journalism and the news media as a whole is the chief purveyor of information and opinion to the community at large, for example, your readership and customers.

According to “The Elements of Journalism,” there are nine elements of journalism. For a journalist to fulfill his duty of providing the people with the information, they need to be free and self-governing. They must follow these guidelines:

• Journalism’s first obligation is to tell the truth.

• Its first loyalty is to the citizens.

• Its essence is discipline of verification.

• Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.

• It must serve as an independent monitor of power.

• It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.

• It must strive to make the news significant, interesting, and relevant.

• It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.

• Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

The Tidewater News is a curious medium. In many stories over the years, I’ve found that I don’t always know whose interests are being served, or ignored, or too many aspects were left unanswered.

I believe any news medium should truly cover facts, truth and be fair and balanced.

The Tidewater News on Monday moderated a forum to ask Wingate and Associates questions about the process for reassessing 12,000 properties in Southampton County last year.

I know you solicited the public for their questions, but I hope you asked tough questions and dug deep when answers smelled fishy.

Overall, assessed property values increased 4.9 percent since 2010; very simply, after all I’ve read and been told, I’m still trying to comprehend how can that


Without going into details, my wife and I were shocked at our reassessment, especially since we paid for an assessment from a local appraisal service during our refinancing process last year.

The two figures were night and day apart.

I attended the hearing to dispute the figure with Wingate. The Wingate representative could not answer my questions, only saying they would re-evaluate after I presented them with a packet of data, to include a copy of my local appraisal.

Though my revised figure from Wingate was much lower, there was still a substantial difference in figures between the two appraisal companies. That raises questions immediately.

Also, I’m very much concerned with online comments on The Tidewater News website in which residents had their credit ratings checked by Wingate; why and by what authorization?

I look forward to reading the outcome of the forum. Remember, your loyalty is to the citizens. Be prepared, investigative, and if something remains unclear, bring it to everyone’s attention.

I could’ve easily written this letter to the Board of Supervisors, but for this forum, you were first up on the firing line.

DON WILSON is an Ivor resident and a Naval officer serving in Iraq as a military adviser. He can be reached at