In case you haven't checked your mailbox in a few weeks, or turned on the TV, or looked at your neighbors' front yards, there is an election coming up.
We voters get to pick the men and women we want to represent us in Congress and the state legislature, as well as judges, sheriffs, county commissioners, school boards, clerks of court and more, depending on where you live.
The Observer's newsroom is working on a voter guide to publish in the newspaper on Sunday, Oct. 28. It will include a Q&A with the local, state and federal candidates who are on Cumberland County ballots, as well as a full list of all contested races in our Sandhills region. I should note that we intended for this guide to publish Oct. 21, which is closer to the Wednesday start of early voting, but Hurricane Florence set us back. Thankfully, the remnants of Hurricane Michael didn't make things worse.
You'll also see stories in the coming days on some of the most competitive and closely watched races.
And we've invited the candidates in a few of these key races to participate in a digital forum of sorts — a conversation with editorial page editor Tim White and me that will be broadcast live on Facebook and made available for later viewing on fayobserver.com. Tim and I are excited about the opportunity to talk with these candidates, sitting at the same table, about important issues in their races, without as much of the canned talking points that you often hear in commercials and from podiums (we hope).
You can participate during the Facebook Live conversations by sharing questions you'd like to hear the candidates answer. We'll be choosing some of your questions to ask during the broadcast. You also can send Tim and me your questions in advance.
These broadcasts will start this week. Look for dates and times in the paper and on our Facebook page, which you can follow by doing a search for @fayobserver.
Speaking of Facebook, we hit a milestone on Friday afternoon: 100,000 likes on the Observer's page.
When we saw our number of "likes" hit six figures, digital editor Beth Hutson and I cheered in the newsroom, and she tried to use some sort of pig-shaped noisemaker she found in her desk. Columnist Bill Kirby Jr. was visibly annoyed, because he was trying to make a phone call.
We had gained a few thousand new "likes" in the past month from coverage of hurricanes Florence and Michael. When you "like" a page, you see its posts show up in your Facebook feed. During Florence and the weeks that followed, our Facebook updates reached more than 2.3 million people.
Here's a fun fact: The Observer has only 4,000 fewer followers than the Raleigh News & Observer, but we're about 9,000 ahead of the Charlotte Observer. Both markets are vastly larger.
Our hearts go out to the coastal communities ravaged by Hurricane Michael.
The damage includes the Panama City News Herald, one of our sister newspapers, which lost its roof and several walls. Many of the staff members lost their homes, though they are continuing to do their jobs as journalists, even with only one phone among them that still works.
Other Florida papers that are part of our GateHouse Media company have sent reporters and photographers to the Panhandle to help with coverage. Newsrooms from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Fayetteville are pitching in by taking dictation from the reporters on the scene. We are updating the Panama City News Herald's website, posting their updates on their social media pages, and editing copy filed by their writers.
Only a month ago, several of our GateHouse colleagues from Florida, Ohio and elsewhere traveled to the North Carolina coast to help the flooded newsrooms there.
We never thought we'd be returning the favor so soon.
Executive editor Matt Leclercq can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3551.