Ask The Editors: Why don't your writers use village names?

Q. I have noticed lately that the local media, (print, Internet and television), have discontinued the use of town and village names, and only use township names when describing places other than the major cities. Just in western Lehigh County alone, you never see the names of Trexlertown, Breinigsville, Wescosville, etc. Only Upper and Lower Macungie township names are used in describing events held in those areas. Recently I was reading an article about the Fogelsville Hotel, which was described as being on Main Street in Upper Macungie Township. I always thought the Fogelsville Hotel was in Fogelsville! Let's bring back the use of the village names, so they won't be lost to future generations.

A. We try to be as specific as possible when giving locations, mindful that we have readers in eight counties.

Villages are a tough call because they're little and their boundaries are undefined. You don't know exactly where they start and end. They're not municipalities like Pennsylvania's boroughs, cities and townships.

Someone on one end of the Lehigh Valley might have heard of a village on the other end but not be able to visualize where it is or find it on a map.

But let's face it, township names aren't great locators either. Some readers might not recognize names like Moore and Heidelberg in part because townships once were overwhelmingly rural and remote, much of them farmland. That changed in 1990, when for the first time in Pennsylvania history, more people lived in townships than in cities and boroughs combined.

Where does that leave us?

We want to name the villages because it's more precise, it serves to educate our readers about the area, and -- here is your point -- it helps preserve the heritage of quaint, decades-old crossroads by keeping their names in the public eye.

And we want to name the townships because they are far more populous and thus more recognizable.

Here's how we deal with this: We use both.

You'll see references in stories to the Cetronia section of South Whitehall Township, the Egypt area of Whitehall Township or the Danielsville section of Lehigh Township.

In the case of the Fogelsville Hotel, the name is the locator, so you don't need to say the hotel is in Fogelsville. Where else would it be? But especially in a business story like the one you're referring to, it's a good idea to identify the township as well. Upper Macungie residents have a stake in how well the business does, because that might affect how much they pay in taxes.

There are exceptions to our "use both names" practice. We think it's enough to say DeSales University is in Center Valley and Lehigh Carbon Community College is in Schnecksville, for example. We don't point out that Center Valley is in Upper Saucon Township, unless that's somehow relevant to the story. The same goes for LCCC and North Whitehall Township.

We're not out of the woods yet.

The Schnecksville Post Office, like other rural post offices, covers an area beyond the village. If we know something happened outside the cluster of homes and businesses along Route 309, but within the zone of Schnecksville mailing addresses, we might write "the Schnecksville area of North Whitehall Township."

Breinigsville is a village in Upper Macungie and, like Schnecksville, has a post office. Naturally, folks who have a Breinigsville mailing address say they live in Breinigsville. But that doesn't necessarily mean they live in -- and pay taxes to -- Upper Macungie. Breinigsville mailing addresses extend into neighboring Lower Macungie Township.

If you live near Breinigsville, you know where it is and you want to see the name in the paper. But readers in the Easton area, for example, might not recognize "Breinigsville." They're more likely to know where Macungie is, so when they see Upper or Lower Macungie in the story, they have a frame of reference. That's one reason we'd say "the Breinigsville section of Upper (or Lower) Macungie Township."

So we haven't stopped using the names Trexlertown, Breinigsville, Wescosville and those of other villages. Rather, we try to work them in so the widest number of our readers can picture where they are.

-- David Venditta, content editor

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