Category Archives: Media

Youngkin Admin Questions Value of School Accreditation Standards

Source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

A Virginia Department of Education press release issued yesterday contained a vitally important message: Virginia’s school accreditation standards are failing to do their job. Despite unprecedented learning losses during the COVID epidemic, the percentage of Virginia public schools meeting the standards fell from 92% pre-COVID to 89% post-COVID, a decline of only three percentage points.

“These ratings call into question the effectiveness of our accreditation standards in identifying schools where students are struggling to achieve grade-level proficiency,” stated Superintendent Jillian Balow. “Frankly, the ratings we are releasing today fail to capture the extent of the crisis facing our schools and students.”

And how did the legacy media treat this story?

The Washington Post ignored it. Instead, it published a story headlined, “Youngkin’s rules for trans students leave many teens fearful, despondent.” As far as I can tell from the round-up of clips in the VA News aggregator, not one of Virginia’s major metro dailies covered the announcement. The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, the (Harrisonburg) Daily News Record, and WSLS (Roanoke) and WTOP (Washington) were the only legacy media outlets to mention it. Only the two TV stations included the Balow quotes in the body of their stories. Continue reading

FIRE to VMI: Hands Off the Independent Student Newspaper

by James A. Bacon

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) has asked the Virginia Military Institute to refrain from pressuring an independent student newspaper, The Cadet, to change its editorial stances.

“Cadet staff have faced interference from VMI leadership, including pressure to make the paper’s content more flattering to the Institute, suppression of its distribution, and demands that the student staff stop working with alumni on publication efforts,” wrote Anne Marie Tamburro and Mike Hiestand with FIRE, a national organization that focuses on campus free speech issues, in FIRE Letter to VMI.

“VMI’s cumulative acts seeking to bend the paper to administrative pressure and interfering with its staff’s activities squarely contradict the Institute’s obligations under the First Amendment, which demands that VMI respect the editorial independence of The Cadet,” FIRE said.

VMI spokesman Bill Wyatt said that FIRE did not fact-check the allegations with VMI contained in the letter before sending it. “They’re taking Bob Morris’ word as gospel,” he said, referring to VMI alumnus Bob Morris, who advises the newspaper and heads the foundation that supports it financially. VMI is working on a response, he added.

Correction: The original version of this story said that FIRE did not fact-check the allegations in the story. It has been corrected to say that FIRE did not fact-check with VMI. Continue reading

Remember When News Outlets Engaged in Fact-Checking?

by Kerry Dougherty

Dang it. The BYU women’s volleyball story had everything the corporate media salivates over:

A conservative Christian school and an alleged racial slur against an African-American female athlete.

Pity that like so many other stories that feed the narrative that America is just a nanosecond away from Jim Crow and that conservative Christians pose the worst sort of domestic threat, this story didn’t stand up to rigorous fact-checking.

Sadly, fact-checking has gone the way of typewriters and copy editors at most news outlets. Young, woke, inexperienced reporters sniff around social media looking for stories that fit their agenda and their bosses print or broadcast whatever they produce, often based on a single source.

The left-wing media saw an irate Tweet from the godmother of the alleged volleyball victim and went to town, shaming Brigham Young University and its racist student section, who reportedly heckled an African American standout on Duke University’s women’s volleyball team during a match against BYU in Provo on August 26.

Here’s a sampling of what passes for journalism in America right now: Continue reading

The Richmond Free Press and the Contrast with Other Progressive Outlets

by James C. Sherlock

I celebrate the Richmond Free Press (RFP).

I discovered that newspaper in a terrific article in Richmond Magazine in 2015.

RFP calls itself a progressive newspaper. And it is. Black progressive.

I find it sometimes, but not always, mirrors the views of the White progressives who dominate the national press.

RFP staff reporters present the news far more straightforwardly than many progressive news outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, The Washington Post and others here, and I find it far more contemplative and locally focused in its editorials.

It is unlike its progressive competitors in many other informative ways.

We will look at a few of them. Continue reading

Be Careful with Survey Results, Especially About Education

Credit: iStock

by James C. Sherlock

I am a prolific reader and analyst of statistics about education. I find it constantly necessary to sort the wheat from the chaff. Chaff is the term I have chosen for this article, not the one I use in private.

The results of the latest Education Next Survey of Public Opinion (2022 poll) will appear endlessly in the press. EdNext has even graciously provided headline-ready assessments based on those results.

  • Partisan Rifts Widen, Perceptions of School Quality Decline
  • “Parental Anxieties over Student Learning Dissipate as Schools Relax Anti-Covid Measures”
  • “Hunger for Stability Quells Appetite for Change: Results of the 2021 Education Next Survey of Public Opinion”
  • “Parent Poll Reveals Support for School Covid-Safety Measures Despite Vaccine Hesitancy, Partisan Polarization”

Read the “Methodological notes” under “Notes” on the survey. Please also note that the links within those notes are both broken.

The parent sample includes oversamples of parents with at least one child in a charter school (305 respondents), parents with at least one child in a private school (310 respondents), Black parents (283 respondents), and Hispanic parents (429 respondents). The completion rate for this survey is 50%.” [Emphasis added.]

The judgments made from those data are breathtaking.

But are they justified by the data? Continue reading

Richmond Times Dispatch’s Flexible “Community Guidelines”

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Times- Dispatch motto is “Where Your Story Lives.”

They fail to define “your.”

I posted a comment this morning on a story in the RTD titled “Hanover County School Board introduces transgender policy; discussion is limited.”

The headline is unconsciously ironic, but I did not comment on that. Picking on headline writers is weak.

I noted that the author, in an extensive article, failed to mention as context for the public discussion upon which she reported the fact that parents and the Board had in mind the two rapes in Loudoun County Public Schools last summer/fall by a young man wearing a skirt to get into the girls bathroom.

I did not comment on the wisdom of the draft resolution that was considered by the Board of Education. I thought it ridiculous. Something simpler, perhaps, like “unless you have to sit or squat to pee, stay out of the girls room.” Or whatever.  But I left that alone.

Mine was, I thought, a respectable input. I just received a note rejecting my comment.

This is the entire note: Continue reading

School Discipline Issues Meet Unshakeable Progressive Dogma

by James C. Sherlock

Moral panic has been defined as a:

…widespread feeling of fear, often an irrational one, that some evil person or thing threatens the values, interests, or well-being of a community or society.

Virginia’s progressive community is in moral panic over the refusal of school discipline outcomes to bend to their prescriptions for “equity.” Scientific surveys conducted by the state show teachers are scared of their students. In Virginia Beach.

To see that panic in action, read the comments on my article, “Why are Teachers Quitting? In Virginia Beach, It May Not Be “Mean Parents.”

Combative progressive comments offer a clinic on the subject.

Let’s look deeper to see sources of the progressive concerns. Continue reading

Liberal Democracy, Illiberal Institutions

Maybe no one wants to work for a public education system that hates our values.

by Shaun Kenney

Carl Schmitt isn’t precisely a household name. The German political theorist was a deep reader of Thucydides and Thomas Hobbes, whose evolution of thought occurred during the fratricidal tumult of Weimar Germany in the 1920s.

One of Schmitt’s particular insights was the totalitarian nature of political parties, namely that the adjudication of power is both an authoritarian act and a totalitarian demand on the consciences of those who participate in it.

Consider for a moment those who waver on any particular piece of Republican orthodoxy — tax cuts, the right to life, the Second Amendment, immigration, supporting our police, or a robust national defense posture. Or on the left with the presence of a social welfare state, abortion on demand, gun control, open immigration policies, defunding the police, or a liberal internationalist order.

One could be an avowed communist, but if that person also happened to be pro-life? The Democrats would savage that individual. Conversely, consider a Republican who was rock solid on every issue except life. Would most Republicans vote for that person? Probably not.

Continue reading

Wonders Never Cease: WaPo Gives Fair Treatment to Alumni Rebellion

Bert Ellis, UVa graduate, president of The Jefferson Council, and newly appointed to the University of Virginia Board of Trustees, is highlighted in The Washington Post article on the alumni-led free speech movement.

by James A. Bacon

Every once in a while The Washington Post reminds us of the kind of newspaper it used to be — capable of producing balanced journalism. Education reporter Susan Svrluga has published an article describing the rise of what I (not she) call the alumni rebellion. She cites the concerns of Virginia-based organizations — the Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve), the Spirit of VMI, and the General’s Redoubt — as well as allied groups in Princeton, MIT and other nationally known universities about the erosion of free speech on college campuses.

Svrluga doesn’t squeeze our statements into a left-wing narrative, she doesn’t mischaracterize our concerns, and she quotes us fairly, accurately, and in context. To be sure, she gives space to those who minimize our allegations about the state of higher-ed today — as it is her obligation to do. It’s important for readers to know that not everyone agrees with us.

The contrast with Ian Shapira, The Washington Post author of repeated hit jobs on the Virginia Military Institute, is dramatic. Shapira epitomizes the new school of journalism. He started with his narrative of VMI as a systemically racist institution, uncritically repeated information that confirmed his belief, and ignored or sought to discredit information that did not. He did go through the motions of producing pro-forma statements for the “other side of the story,” but he never let them interrupt his pre-determined narrative.

So, kudos to Svrluga for letting us tell our story.

While I am grateful for Svrluga highlighting the new alumni-led free-speech movement, I do believed that she missed a critical angle. By way of preface, I need to quote UVa spokesman Brian Coy and renowned political scientist Larry Sabato. Continue reading

How’s Your Climate Emergency Going? Hanging In?

by Steve Haner

How is your climate emergency going so far? We seem to be hanging in well at my house.

The media hype around this fairly typical July hot spell has been off the charts, but my favorite headline of the season appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (home of at least one climate jeremiad per day) weeks ago: “Extreme weather hits every U.S. region and won’t let up.” Such an honest example of the game being played demands recognition. Continue reading

Another Daily Newspaper Circles the Drain

Down with the ship!

by James A. Bacon

The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s daily newspaper, no longer offers daily delivery on its website, reports WINA talk show host Rob Schilling. Potential subscribers are given only two options at the newspaper website: a digital subscription (introductory offer of $1.00 for 26 weeks) and a month of Sunday-only delivery for $21.67.

Describing the “once flourishing publication” as in its death throes, Schilling details the newspaper’s plight:

  • only two dedicated local news reporters;
  • only a single local news story in most editions;
  • a preponderance of reprints from sister publications like the Richmond Times-Dispatch;
  • An increasing number of typos and publishing errors; and
  • Woke, leftist journalistic style, and a leftist slant to everyday news reporting.

Continue reading

About Those 30 Police Shootings in Virginia Last Year…

Donovon Lynch, the shooting victim you heard of. Photo credit: Pharrell Williams/Instagram

by James A. Bacon

Police shootings generate an inordinate amount of attention in the media, but the number of incidents is remarkably rare. Of the millions of interactions in 2021 between police and citizens here in Virginia, including 187,000 arrests, there were 30 police shootings resulting in injury or death, according to the Crime in Virginia 2021 report/. Of those incidents, 19 resulted in fatalities, and 12 in injuries. (One incident resulted in two injuries.)

One shooting for every 6,300 arrests. That’s not the impression you’d get from watching Hollywood-produced television and movies… or paying attention to the media, for that matter.

Richard F. Thomas, the unarmed shooting victim you never heard of.

If you found that figure surprising, brace yourself for the real shocker — the racial identity of the shooting victims.

A Skeptic Research Center poll asked the question, “how many unarmed Black men were killed by police in 2019?” Twenty percent of respondents identifying as “very liberal” guessed the number to be about 10,000 or more. Even small percentages of self-identified conservatives gave the same response.

As the Skeptic Research Center noted, the media-fed popular impression was wildly off. Nationally, only 13 unarmed Black men were fatally shot by police in 2019. Last year, here in Virginia, that widespread perception is even more divorced from reality. Here follows a list of Virginia shooting victims in 2021 culled from The Washington Post police fatal shooting database: Continue reading

What’s With All the TJ Haters?

Click for more legible image.

I was pleased to have an opportunity this morning to discuss the swelling anti-Thomas Jefferson sentiment in contemporary culture on The John Reid show on WRVA. In particular, I criticized the University of Virginia Alumni Association for turning down an ad from The Jefferson Council (on whose board I serve) that defended Jefferson’s reputation for opposing slavery and questioned the widespread assertion that he raped his slave Sally Hemings. Listen to the interview here. Thanks for giving us a voice, John!

While I’m at it, let me put in a plug for John’s morning broadcast. John is a critical player in Virginia’s small but vocal conservative media ecosystem. Click here to view the list of news makers he has interviewed in the past few days.

Update: Charlottesville talk radio host Joe Thomas interviewed Jefferson Council board member Buddy Weber on the controversy. Lissten to the podcast here.

Update: Shaun Kenney at The Republican Standard uses the ad controversy as a jumping-off point to broader discussion of how Thomas Jefferson and other historical figures are treated today. Kenney leans to the view that Jefferson was the father of Hemings’ children, but he does not treat the interpretation as settled dogma.

Writes Kenney: “Much as there is no such thing as unquestionable science, there should be no such thing as unquestionable history. Reproducibility and replication based on record and evidence remains the gold standard.”


The Only Thing “Systemic” About VMI Is the WaPo’s Cherry Picking of Data

by James A. Bacon

Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira was up to his old tricks in an article published over the weekend about Governor Glenn Youngkin’s appointments to the Virginia Military Institute Board of Visitors. Predictably, he portrayed the divisions at VMI as between rival camps of those who “support change” and “those resisting it” — a vacuous description of the controversies dogging the military academy. It is more accurate today to characterize the rival camps as those who believe VMI needs a good dose of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to redress past racial wrongs versus those who regard DEI’s raising of racial consciousness as antithetical to VMI’s socially egalitarian culture.

Be that as it may, Shapira frets that Youngkin’s appointment of four Republicans to the 17-person board “would roll back some of the efforts designed to make VMI more inclusive and diverse.” Only 6% of the Institute’s 1,650 cadets are Black, he notes, and only 14% are women.

Let’s set aside the obvious facts that women are far less interested in pursuing military careers than men, that they comprise only 16.5% of Americans in uniform, and that few college-bound women are interested in undergoing the rigors of the Rat Line.

Let us focus instead upon Shapira’s discussion of race at VMI. Youngkin’s board selections, he wrote, made VMI “slightly less racially diverse” by replacing one Black member, Sean Lanier, whose term had expired. “The new makeup of the VMI board includes nine White men, four Black men, two White women, one Hispanic man and one Native American woman.” Continue reading

African-Americans the Main Victims of Virginia Crime Wave

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia State Police has published its 2021 Crime in Virginia report, and the big news — that homicides and violent crime continued their two-year surge — seemed not to pique much interest in the mainstream media. To be sure, the television stations, where crime news is a staple, and the Virginia Mercury did give the report perfunctory notice, so give those outlets some credit. But the majors — The Washington Post, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, and Virginia Public Media — ignored it altogether.

Here is the data released yesterday that Virginia’s organs of “social justice” propaganda have not deemed important enough for same-day coverage:

  • 562 homicides were reported in 2021, up from 528 the previous year, and 428 the year before that.
  • 17,993 violent crimes of all types were reported in 2021, up from 16,823 the previous year, and 15,713 the year before that.

Virginia, like the nation, is in the grip of a violent crime wave, even as changes in laws and law-enforcement policy have cut the number of drug-related arrests by half over two years. Remarkably, despite the media’s obsession with finding racial disparities in all walks of life, no outlet — not one — has taken note of the disparities in the race of the assault and homicide victims. Continue reading