Virginia Pundit Watch

Will Vehrs



Setting Sights on Schapiro


The burgeoning Virginia blogosphere appears to have found its lodestar in the person of Jeff Schapiro, reporter and pundit for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Conservative bloggers have coalesced in opposition to the perceived liberal Democratic leanings of the prominent bow-tied observer of state politics.


Schapiro has even drawn a nickname, “Good Copy,” based on this line from his February 20th column: “Enough with this idea of a press-Democrat conspiracy. If reporters vote for anything, it's good copy.” It is in the pursuit of “good copy” that bloggers, particularly those in the “Old Dominion Blog Alliance” see Schapiro pursuing an agenda.


Leading the pack in pursuing Schapiro for bias against Republicans and undue cheerleading for Russ Potts has been Norm Leahy of One Man’s Trash. John Behan of Commonwealth Conservative has been an active player, too, but often he just links to Leahy’s thorough skewering. Yesterday, Leahy almost seemed disappointed that he had no obvious hook because Schapiro’s column didn’t appear: “With Jeff Schapiro out on vacation (or in recovery from last week's nasty bout of columnist fever) …”


The “columnist fever” he referred to was Schapiro’s obvious anti-George Allen piece, where he dredged up donations to Allen by Smithfield Foods as a possible hindrance to a presidential bid. Leahy quickly pointed out that Smithfield had made major donations to Tim Kaine and Mark Warner without raising questions from Schapiro.


Without engaging in blog triumphalism, this focus on Schapiro is a positive development. To the extent that Schapiro reads his critiques (there is some indication he likens blogging to “ranting”), it forces him to sharpen his arguments. Where Schapiro’s view often became the de facto conventional wisdom, there are now alternative viewpoints, forcing more thinking and discussion.


Is Bob Gibson Next?


Like Schapiro, Charlottesville Daily Progress columnist Bob Gibson wrote positively of “Independent Republican” gubernatorial candidate Russ Potts and disparaged certain elements of the Republican Party,   “Addison” of Sic Semper Tyrannis was immediately all over him with the headline, “Bob Gibson tastes bile.”


In a less controversial column, Gibson reviewed several upcoming races in the General Assembly.


Meanwhile, Across the Potomac


Melanie Scarborough of the Washington Post tracked what she called “shining” and “tarnished” moments for Virginians in Washington.  Sen. George Allen got kudos for introducing a resolution to allow general aviation back at Reagan National Airport. Congressman Tom Davis was slammed for his backing of the “Real ID” Act.


Davis also appeared on Meet the Press yesterday to discuss and defend his hearings on steroid use in baseball, including possible legal action against subpoenaed players and former players who do not appear. National pundit opinion appears to be heavily against the hearings.


Breaking with the Times


A self-professed supporter of most positions taken by the Roanoke Times editorial page broke with its opposition to state illegal immigrant control measures.  Deena Flinchum, a retired IT professional, wrote, “The federal government has been dangerously lax in enforcing laws against illegal immigration for some years. The states and the people are starting to do what they can in this area for themselves.”


Meanwhile, an entertaining blog, The Salt Lick, devoted to countering the “liberal” positions of the Roanoke Times, has set up shop.


No More Downloads


Shannon Henry, who has covered technology for the Washington Post since 1995 with her “Download” column, is hanging up her laptop.  She said farewell in this online chat and summarized the last 10 years:


In Washington circa 1995, there was no real tech community linking entrepreneurs, very few sources of venture capital, and not that much "experience" in commercial technology success or failure. Now there's all that. Those who launched companies will start new ones, there's more money to be had and there is a real network of people who help each other do business. But that's not to say the hardest part is over. The biggest challenges today are finding new ideas and keeping successful companies going strong by taking on new risks.


She’ll be missed.


Apology for a Price


Kerry Dougherty of the Virginian-Pilot awoke one morning to a radio apology from VDOT for delays in I-64 construction. She thought it was a news report until she heard, “VDOT. We’re keeping you on the go and in the know.” After learning that running the advertising spots cost $163,000 (some of it Federal money), she suggested a less-costly and more sincere alternative:


How about having the head of VDOT march up and down I-64 wearing a sandwich board that says “I’m Sorry” for a couple of weeks? He could knock on the windows of stalled motorists and pass out $163,000 worth of sandwiches.


Frankly, the only thing more annoying than the massive ineptitude on the interstate is that an apology for it costs us money.


-- March 14, 2005 



















Will Vehrs grew up in Prince William County. He has a degree in American history from the College of William and Mary and an MBA from Chapman University. Will's experience includes a stint with a Fortune 500 company and economic development work in state government. His "Punditwatch" column appears on and Jewish World Review, as well as on his own Punditwatch website. He also writes for the Quasipundit political site.