A More Urgent Question than Ever: Who Will Cover the News?

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam and the 2020 General Assembly has engineered one of the greatest assaults on the middle class in Virginia history. You would never imagine that from reading the coverage by Virginia’s news outlets, whose reporters and editorial writers are so in sync with the new Democratic majority that the only controversies worth noting are intramural skirmishes within the liberal/progressive movement. (Well, the media did get around eventually to taking note of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, but only after it had spread to all corners of the state.)

The current generation of journalists literally cannot imagine any other way of looking at the issues. The topics highlighted here on Bacon’s Rebellion — the tax hikes and clawbacks, the heaping of new costs onto electricity ratepayers, the institutionalization of identity politics in schools and government — barely make it into the news articles, much less the headlines. Virginians may have elected a Democratic majority, but they did not vote for a revolution in governance. They have no idea what is about to hit them. And they likely won’t know it until it actually does hit them, because they won’t read or hear about it in the dominant media outlets.

Against this backdrop, we learn that the Virginian-Pilot, once the strongest voice in Virginia journalism, is consolidating offices with the Daily News. The shriveled Pilot news staff now will cover news for the 1.1 million inhabitants of Hampton Roads south of the James River from the Daily Press office north of the river. (See Kerry Dougherty’s column today for details.) This development follows the relentless decimation of newsrooms in other newspapers across Virginia. Their ultimate demise seems inevitable.

I have asked this question repeatedly over the years: Who will cover the news? The only thing worse than journalism dictated by social justice warriors is no journalism at all. At least Virginia’s shrunken, ideologically blinkered newspaper staffs report some of the news, so the public has some notion what horrors the political class is inflicting upon them.

The emerging alternative model of journalism is philanthropically driven. Thus, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos showers millions of dollars upon the Washington Post, Virginia Public Media (National Public Radio) supports a cadre of reporters through an endowment, and the Virginia Mercury lives off foundation grants. Commercially funded journalism is being supplanted by tax-privileged philanthropic journalism. While all three entities do contribute some useful reporting, they explore only a narrow range of perspectives — center-left perspectives.

Outside of Bacon’s Rebellion, a couple other blogs, and the stray op-ed piece in newspaper editorial pages, conservative and libertarian perspectives are almost entirely absent from the public discourse in Virginia. There’s always talk radio, but let’s not confuse that with journalism or in-depth commentary. The tiny talk radio staffs have no resources to do their own reporting or analysis.

There is a greater role for Bacon’s Rebellion in the emerging news-gathering ecosystem. Virginia desperately needs a credible conservative/libertarian editorial voice. But it doesn’t need a publication that becomes captured by the right-wing echo chamber. Virginia needs a conservative/libertarian voice that is grounded in reality and subjects its reporting and commentary to critical scrutiny. One of the greatest strengths of this blog, in my humble opinion, is the participation of moderates and liberals willing to engage in civil discourse. Conservative as most of our contributors are, I appreciate it when our liberal friends challenge our assumptions, point out inconvenient facts, and call out our biases. Such engagement sharpens everyone’s thinking all around.

I am persuaded that there is a vast, under-served market in Virginia for a source of news and commentary that (1) is informed by conservative/libertarian perspectives, (2) is grounded in careful reporting and fact-checking, and (3) is tolerant of a wide range of views, including views different from our own. I also have faith that there is a sustainable business model to support such a publication.

Indeed, I would contend that Virginia desperately needs such a publication in the new era of Democratic Party dominance in state politics. Neither the commercial nor philanthropic media have shown the slightest inclination to push back against the leftward surge in policy. Someone has to challenge assumptions, point out inconvenient facts, and call out the biases of the ruling coalition. I guess that job falls to us.

I am winding up a book-writing project that has consumed much of my energy for the past two years. When that project is finished, hopefully by mid-year, I will have more time to devote to making Bacon’s Rebellion a more powerful journalistic voice. In the meantime, loyal readers, you can help by spreading the word — forward our content to your friends, post our articles on Facebook, chip a few bucks into the tip jar, and give us your feedback.

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43 responses to “A More Urgent Question than Ever: Who Will Cover the News?

  1. Who will control the news?

    My cynical answer is: The same people who currently control it – partisan hacks from both ends of the political spectrum (but mostly from the left).

    I’m not sure I have a non-cynical answer. I wish I did.

  2. re: ” The emerging alternative model of journalism is philanthropically driven.”

    Are there not wealthy Conservatives who are capable of doing what Bezos or Warren Buffet did?

    Conservatives have pretty much divorced themselves from the so-called main-stream media but where do they go right now for news they like?

    The list of Conservative media is fairly long:

    American Thinker
    Breitbart News
    CNSNews
    Conservative Review
    The Daily Caller
    The Daily Signal
    The Daily Wire
    Drudge Report
    The Federalist
    Fox Nation
    Free Republic
    The Gateway Pundit
    InfoWars
    Independent Journal Review
    LifeZette
    Louder with Crowder
    Newsmax
    PJ Media
    Prntly
    Rebel News
    Right Side Broadcasting Network
    Townhall
    TruthRevolt
    Twitchy
    The Washington Free Beacon
    The Western Journal
    WorldNetDaily
    PragerU
    HodgeTwins[6]
    TheScoop.us[7]

    Blogs
    Hot Air
    Instapundit
    Michelle Malkin
    Power Line
    RedState
    Zero Hedge
    Mark Kaye [8

    I’m not sure what the problem is for Conservatives.

    Are they not happy with the cornucopia of right-wing media already available?

  3. “Jim, you ignorant slut”
    “Don, you pompous ass”

    Who can forget the SNL Weekend Update routine where Jane Curtain (whatever happened to her?) and Dan Aykroyd spoofed James J Kilpatrick (Richmond journalist) and Shana Alexander’s Point / Counterpoint section of 60 Minutes?

    While Virginia does need a clear and fact-based conservative / libertarian news and commentary outlet I am not sure that optimizes getting the truth to readers. Perhaps a modern day Point / Counterpoint would be more effective. Not for every article but for some key issues of the day. For example, should Virginia legalize the adult recreational use of marijuana?

  4. You know…. it’s the Liberals fault that we don’t have good Conservative media, right? I KNOW it’s right on the TIP on some folks TONGUES!

    Conservatives want Liberal media to report in a way that Conservatives like and if they don’t – then Conservatives can’t do anything about it so they blame the liberals – as usual! 😉

  5. After reading this my future discourse may not be civil

  6. All in all, I don’t think I’ve witnessed a time in my life when Conservatives were not as well recognized and their views well promoted.

    They’ve basically conducted a war against liberalism and progressivism and it’s a take-no-prisoners type war. Just look at Congress and our own General Assembly. The GOP was not about to compromise on virtually anything until voters took them out and even then not so much.

    But looking over the media landscape – Cable TV, blogs, talk radio, blogs, “think tanks”, advocacy groups, institutions like Liberty U and others, you name it – across the board Conservatives are ascendant. They do have a problem with voters in some urban and suburban regions but in terms of advocacy of their views – they are anything but poor-boys.

    Their biggest issue is they pretty much want to implement their views and not necessarily represent voters desires and that’s a loser in urban and sububurban districts. You gotta represent the voters or out you go. It may take several cycles because of the way that our elections work but at some point they lose.

    Jim thinks voters are going to suddenly “wake up” and see all the bad stuff the Dems have done.

    I suspect that most urban and suburban Dems support most/much what has been done and even if they are not 100% thrilled, they’re not about to put a GOP back in.

  7. Larry is correct that the conservative media list is long. But therein may lie the problem … a list too fractionated to be effective.

    Very few of us will (or can) take the time to browse the myriad of sources (Larry’s list itself is probably incomplete) required to get a broad view of the RELEVANT news.

    Jim’s question is key … how to mainstream BR … and get air time opposite Madow and her ilk.

    After living 89 of my 91 years in Virginia I’d love to find an equivalent publication to BR here in Palm Beach County (In a GOP state no less!). Sigh … just preaching to the choir.

  8. Pingback: A More Urgent Question than Ever: Who Will Cover the News? - Bacon's Rebellion - Libertarian Guide

  9. Larry, please re-read Jim’s post. It is the demise careful, unbiased investigative reporting and fact checking that he (and I) regret, not the editorial pages. Take for example the Washington Post and New York Times. I grew up reading the Washington Post. I still subscribe online and try to read both papers. They have publicly declared war on Republicans. That is undeniable. The chance that they would send reporters out to investigate Democrats is zero. It has made them both virtually unreadable except for those who need their biases reinforced. The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, does an excellent job of separating reporting from the editorial board. Every day I read articles in the Journal that provide a different perspective than their editorial pages. It is also undeniable that America’s journalism schools are turning out social warriors instead of reporters. It is a shame for which there is no short term fix. Please don’t denigrate true journalism by insisting it must have a political slant. It did not used to in the best papers, and the Journal proves that it need not today.

    • John – I have read WaPo, NYT and WSJ for many years. I subscribe to all three and you know the truth – when all 3 agree on something.

      I do not think any of the 3 have changed much in the way they report the news.

      WaPo and NYT have always been left and WSJ has always been right.

      It’s the GOP that has changed and become much more warlike in their behavior. The GOP has treaditionally attacked Wapo/NYT for a long time. Of late, with Trump, they have been hitting back.

      take a look at the Republican Plank in 1956:

      But again – what is wrong with you guys that you can’t build up your own media if you don’t like the current media?

      You whine about “who is going to report the news” after you’ve spent
      years hammering the media? lord. lord.

      • That last time you put that crap out there I went and found the 1956 platform. That meme is BS in both columns.

      • Jim Bacon wrote an article lamenting the lack of principled unbiased journalism and you use it as a platform to post a stupid meme filled with lies. You’ve done nothing but exhibit your own extreme bias.

        • Sorry about that. I felt that Conservatives have moved right over the years to include rejection of the MSM and that meme illustrates that rightward movement.

          We’ve had a ton of new media on the right from FOX to Brietbart that Conservatives do prefer.

          But there is still a lament about the “loss” of “news” apparently because the right-media is also apparently not considered unbiased and so we have lost the “news”.

          I think Conservatives have played a big role in that loss. They have systematically undermined news media and because of that, many no longer consider news media as reliable and worth reading and have abandoned it for social media, blogs and talk radio.

          It’s almost like the only “news” was being generated by left wing media and the lament is that now, all “news” is going away.

          I just ask why Conservatives can’t fill in the gap with new media that is unbiased and objective (and does real investigative journalism)?

          Some might be do to people, left and right, no longer wanting to “pay” for news and instead prefer the “free” kind which is not exactly unbiased either.

          • I don’t suppose it ever occurred to you that the reason conservatives have rejected the main stream media is that the overwhelming majority of it has had a leftist bias for a VERY long time (e.g. NYT’s adoration of the Soviet Union & Joseph Stalin)? NYT, WaPo, NBC, CBS, ABC – essentially every major news outlet of the pre-cable & pre-internet timeframe, was left-leaning, some of them very far left.

            Maybe you didn’t notice since you agree with them on just about every issue, but those of us whose views were not being represented noticed it.

            And now that you’ve had to deal with some media outlets that lean the other way you get all whiny about conservative views being over represented. Give me a break.

    • Like Larry, I tended to read Jim’s lament being about the failure of major newspapers to reflect some of his personal concerns, i.e. the “institutionalization of identity politics in schools and government”, in their reporting. That’s for the editorial page, not the news pages.

      Like you, I miss the in-depth, investigative reporting. One reason for its decline is the lack of resources. I tend to think another reason is the reduced attention span of Americans. People do not want to take the time to read something of any length. For example, several years ago, I was told by a colleague in my office that she did not read anything that I sent out that was more than a couple of paragraphs long. (Of course, it may not have been worth reading! But, it did contain information that she needed and asked me for later.) In this day of instant news, when reporters have to have Twitter accounts and followers and blogs and podcasts, they do not have the time to spend on long-range projects. The series that the RTD did last year on guardianships was a welcome exception.
      There is always ProPublica.

      Could you give me an example or two of instances in which the WSJ investigated Democrats and the NYT and WP did not?

  10. Perhaps a decent education might help today’s journalists to understand the basics – like the difference between fact and fiction, political science versus economics, sociology versus history. Indeed how to read and listen with independent discernment grounded in learning from the humanities.

    Today the tools of an educated person – acuity, awareness, wisdom, judgement, vocabulary, and cultural literacy- by and large, have been washed out of most journalists tool kits thanks to our collapsed educational system in America where all value is measured through the primitive, emotional and dirty lens of race based social justice and grievance.

    For example, the education of seventy years ago was so much higher than today that back in those days (1930 -1960) all of William Faulkner’s novels were made into popular Hollywood movies, by the likes of MGM.

    How many movie producers and journalist today could read, much less understand the likes of the 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932). Absalom, Absalom! (1936)?

    And Faulkner work was most all of it of the highest quality on the issues of real social justice, grievance, and loss.

    Meanwhile, today, our leftist professors and intellectuals produce mostly all trash and garbage on these very same subjects. Imagine all we have lost. And we and our children must live within that trash and garbage.

    Why? What happened?

    • One proof of the toxic influence of elite education is how the quality of the elite media (the likes of WaP0, NY Times, CNN, MSNBC) have fallen so far, while many local outlets still produce good, even high, quantity journalism.

      Meanwhile elite education in non stem fields is now an obvious curse to those students subjected to it.

      • This thread is so worn. You have an out of control president who spouts lie after lie (16,000?) and it is the fault of the “liberal” media? I think MSM has done a great job and I include the WSJ. And I get get so tired of the BR call to arms to prevent catastrophe when voters give the GA to more moderate Democrats. Are voters misinformed? Do they have to be educated by right wing libertarians? BTW, the demise if papers like the Pilot are the fault of its local owners used to monopolies that got margins of maybe 25 percent on print and 45 percent on broadcast. It has nothing to do with Yale teaching poetry. Yipes! Where do these people come from!

  11. ” Former Fox News reporter says he left because of ‘partisan misinformation'”

    Former Fox News reporter Carl Cameron said Monday that he left the network favored by conservatives because “right-wing hosts drowned out straight journalism with partisan misinformation.”

    Cameron made the remarks in a promotional video about why he joined Front Page Live, a website whose goal is, in part, to serve as an antidote to the conservative Drudge Report.

    “What’s a former Fox guy doing here on Front Page Live partnering with progressives?” Cameron, who worked at Fox News for more than two decades, said in the video. “Well, it’s about facts, not partisanship.”

    Cameron, now Front Page Live’s chief political correspondent, said he joined Fox News in its early days because the “idea of fair and balanced news appealed to me.”

    Cameron is about the 10th person to leave FOX and go to other media like CNN.

    why is that happening?

    • Gee, Larry, broadcast has always been a revolving door. Just ten? I would never claim Fox as real journalism, almost never watch it.

      • Journalist do move around but typically not FOX. Almost no existing journalists will go there and there has been an exodus from there as of late.

        I’m reassured a little bit that you do realize that FOX is not real journalism but there are also others out there like FOX on the climate issue especially. Not “real” scientists – but bloggers who “interpret” data collected by science – differently than science does because science is “lying” … same basic theme with respect to main stream media – both infested with liberals and lying.

        Right?

  12. Jim, if you are planning a bold new strategy, are you going to pay for it? Or will it be gratis as usual?

  13. Bacons’ Rebellion is really cool. I like it better than my dirt bike now. I have learned so much. It is so true, you cannot find the topics covered here anywhere. I plan to make a payment to support this. Is there a recommended total? I don’t want to come off cheap when I click pay.

  14. I have “fits” of feeling guilt about paying for BR since I do pay a pretty penny for the likes of WaPo, NYT and WSJ but then Jim will write some far right “stuff” that I strongly disagree with and I don’t feel guilty any more for a while. ;-).

    Jim, to his credit, has made BR a labor of love. He’s put far more into it than many would have and/or they would have lost faith. He’s added more permanent “staff” like Dick and Steve – assets, as well as guest writers. He actually did try to monetize it with support from some different sources including Dominion and the long and short of it is that it did not work out but I bet he’d have more to say on that aspect.

    The way things are right now is a bit scary in terms of people getting factual information. I’ve seen so much false stuff being propagated and believed on social media… these days… and as the saying goes – they do vote also. Trump has totally changed the game of “news” and not in a good way.

  15. re: ” I don’t suppose it ever occurred to you that the reason conservatives have rejected the main stream media is that the overwhelming majority of it has had a leftist bias for a VERY long time (e.g. NYT’s adoration of the Soviet Union & Joseph Stalin)? NYT, WaPo, NBC, CBS, ABC – essentially every major news outlet of the pre-cable & pre-internet timeframe, was left-leaning, some of them very far left.”

    I think your response well illustrates the issue with Conservatives.

    Yes, the NYT and WaPo have a liberal bias especially in the Editorial pages – not unlike the right-leaning WSJ has right-leaning bias on it’s pages sometimes.

    But all of them also have hard news without bias.

    On article about politics and political issues – I don’t read one paper. I read several including the WSJ and other sources to gain perspective AND I’m cognizant of confirmation bias – for myself and know it’s an issue for all of us.

    “Maybe you didn’t notice since you agree with them on just about every issue, but those of us whose views were not being represented noticed it.”

    I absolutely do not. For instance, you’ll find for example, that I’m actually more fiscally conservative than many conservatives are these days – I think the deficit and debt are still a problem while many Conservatives have abandoned that stance they once held. I also believe people should pay MORE for Medicare than they currently do and it should function more like Social Security which is solely funded from earmarked FICA taxes.

    “And now that you’ve had to deal with some media outlets that lean the other way you get all whiny about conservative views being over represented. Give me a break.”

    I’ve ALWAYS dealt with far-right “media” in that there is a differnence between bias and outright lies and disinformation, etc. I know it when I see it and it’s present in a lot of conservative media these days and I strongly suspect that even Conservatives see it and that’s why they lament the loss of “news” when left leaning new media goes belly up – because it leaves them with “no news” – even though there still is a passel of right-wing “news” sites – even Conservatives know in their hearts it’s really beyond just bias and is just outright false.

    I STILL read Conservative media though because I want to understand them and where they are on the issues – and why.

    I STILL read WaPo, NYT, WSJ and a variety of Virginia papers to continue to have a wider understanding of the issues and I call them as I see them especially when there is hypocrisy between what some say they support – and their actual actions – both sides at times.

    But the problem with Conservatives is that they HAVE moved further right – and away from some things I was in agreement with them before and some of those things are on that 1956 GOP plank. I have not changed my views on those things, Conservatives have.

  16. A friend sent this to me and it is the best recent piece yet on what happened to newspapers and it sure ain’t some takeover by liberals.

    https://medium.com/peter-winters-life-of-fiction/follow-the-money-fd9db58108d1

    • Thanks for the article. I’ve heard very similar stories from folks I personally know in the newspaper business.

      The local paper fell into trouble when the holder of their existing loan decided that even though their finances were solid and they could easily repay the loan – that industry trends predicted trouble ahead and so they called the loan in and it was sold to hedge fund folks who were going to sell off parts of it for whatever those would bring and in the process fire large numbers of staff, then offer what was left to whoever showed up.

      It turned out that Warren Buffet showed up with a company called BH Media and continued the downsizing and revamping that included buying more papers in Virgina and consolidating some functions to centralized ones, i.e. instead of one staff membe at each paper – one that did it for all papers.. like editing… etc.

      Then BH Media sold all the Virginia papers and more upheaval.

      But the thing to remember here is how all newspapers were funded and how changes to that underlying business model have led to their current fate and what some see is a demise.

      That change affected ALL papers no matter whether they had a liberal or conservative ethos.

      The very essence of advertising has fundamentally changed and especially so how newspapers were essentially funded as remora-like entities that got their lifeblood by their proximity to advertising which actually survived the advent of television which also completely changed the basics of advertising.

      But newspapers could not and cannot figure out a way to still get funded from advertising which is a little bit inexplicable because that’s exactly how GOOGLE got to be the behemoth that they have become.

      Why couldn’t newspapers do something like GOOGLE did and be able to migrate their business model to still continue to monetize advertising?

      It’s almost like what happened to Kodak and Blockbuster. Why couldn’t either of them – morph into digitization and streaming media instead of being supplanted by other companies that essentially did take the original business model and re-configured it to modern technology?

      What has happened, notably, has almost nothing to do with political philosophy but rather an inability of a business to adjust to changing times – and entire industry has failed to do that.

  17. Larry exactly. A lot of br commenters pine away for the great old days when they were really monopolies run by families like the Battens or Bryans. Don’t think they didn’t bias coverage of issues like integration. At the RTD i wanted to do a lengthy project on Philip Morris. That idea was very quickly shot down. One problem with some of the bloggers is that they know a lot less about the news business than they think they do.

  18. A good news story would be a comparison of the budgets and operations of Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. Loudoun’s transfer to its public schools is a higher percentage (c. 56% versus 53%). Yet, Loudoun’s proposed increased tax rate 1.035 is considerably smaller than Fairfax’s existing rate 1.135. Why the difference? What is Loudoun doing better than Fairfax? Where is there waste or duplication?

    But hell would freeze over before the Post would engage in such an analysis. Expose wasteful spending by a local government? Give fiscal conservatives ammunition to ask tough questions? Give supporters of certain programs arguments that waste should be cut and other programs given more funding? Never.

    The demise of the newspaper will not be missed by many.

    • where is the Conservative “news” to do this analysis?

      • Larry, if the MSM is truly mainstream, they would cover this type of situation. Every story wouldn’t have a left-wing slant. The point is that they don’t and, as such, they aren’t. Most bigtime journalists work totally without integrity. Al, no; but most yes.

  19. No TMT, the MSM cannot meet your expectations… but that does not make them illegitimate – except in your eyes.

    Not every story has a “left” slant. Have you read the articles on the coronavirus? Do you consider that reporting as “left”?

    Tell me what right wing media you go to read about coronavirus ?

    What non-liberal news media do you get info on things like coronavirus?

    Are you a “secret” WaPo or MSM reader sometimes on issues like this?

    you guys are royally conflicted on this.. you say you hate the MSM because they’re so bad but where exactly do you really go to – to read national and world news if not that nasty MSM?

  20. Here in Chesapeake, there is no one covering but me in terms of going to meetings/events and reporting on them. This is where you have to have people knowledgeable about the issues and can report what is being hidden and what isn’t.
    What is entirely interesting is that I would be considered conservative leaning, yet the Republicans are the ones I end up reporting on doing most of the garbage.

    • Everybody, of whatever political persuasion, needs someone to hold them accountable. Like you, I tend to share Republican principles and values. But, like you, I recognize that Republicans are human beings like anyone else, subject to temptation, short-cuts, insider dealing, and just plain stupidity. Human frailty knows no ideological bounds. I’m glad to know that you’re keeping an eye on Chesapeake — now Virginia’s second most populous city!

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