Category Archives: Media

Newspapers: No Laughing Matter

by Kerry Dougherty

Almost any time I do any public speaking – not often since the pandemic began – a member of the audience will ask something like this:

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to work in newspapers?

After I stop laughing, I ask if the young person has a trust fund. If the answer is no – and it’s always no – I say there is no money and no future in newspapers. The young person should learn to code or do something useful, like dog grooming.

That usually gets a laugh. But I’m not joking.

Newspapers large and small are circling the drain. It’s a national tragedy. Here in Tidewater we just found out that both The Virginian-Pilot, where I spent 33 years, and The Daily Press, are now owned by a hedge fund. Continue reading

The Democratic Coalition’s Conflicts of Interest Cause Much Political Scrambling

by James C. Sherlock

It is tough to be a Democratic politician in Richmond or Washington. Now that they govern, they find it one big game of coalition whack-a-mole.

I have written today of the conflicts between the interests of teachers unions and those of parents playing out in the Virginia General Assembly. That vital Democratic suburban women demo is in play.

That is the tip of the iceberg for Democrats. They have assembled a coalition whose interests are fundamentally opposed. Those fissures are only fully exposed when they have unfettered governance, which they have now both in Richmond and Washington.

The only things they seem to agree on are big government, free money and government regulation and control of nearly everything except their own interests.

After that, it gets dicey. Continue reading

A Rare Recognition

Bill Howell. Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

It’s not often that we see our friends at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (TJI) get recognition in established media. The younger generation of reporters gravitates toward studies and reports published by left-leaning advocacy groups, seemingly living in a universe in which informed conservative opinions do not exist. So, I’m delighted to see that the Richmond Times-Dispatch has highlighted the announcement that former House Speaker William J. Howell has joined TJI as chairman of the board of directors.

“He’s a superb fit,” said Chris Braunlich, president of the 24-year-old institute. “He brings to our institute the knowledge of the workings of the General Assembly.”

“There is a need for a vigorous, free-market, center-right organization that can help develop good policy, promote good policy and ensure that it works,” he added in a Thursday interview. Continue reading

Consumer Reports Misleads on Virginia EV Bill

Great Seal of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Few media outlets are as influential with their readership as Consumer Reports or as active in soliciting direct contact of public officials on issues that management feels are important to that publication’s political values. That is their right, but false statements in support of their positions is a violation of public trust.

I received yesterday afternoon in my email a solicitation for political action in Virginia pushed out by Consumer Reports to all subscribers. It read:

Earlier this week, the Virginia House of Delegates approved an exciting piece of legislation that would allow the state to make it easier for consumers to buy fuel-efficient and electric vehicles at car dealerships in the Commonwealth.

That in turn could help drivers save money on fuel and reduce our air pollution: a win-win no matter how you slice it.

But before the bill can get signed into law, it must pass through the Senate by next week. Can you send a message to your VA Senator now and ask them to vote YES on House Bill 1965?

Continue reading

Why Are Nursing Home Workers Refusing to Get Vaccinated?

An apparent exception to the rule: a nursing home worker in New York gets a vaccination. Credit: Yuki Iwamura/AP and the Washington Post.

by James A. Bacon

A large percentage of nursing home workers in Northern Virginia and the Washington metropolitan area have declined to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Their wariness, reports The Washington Post, arises from “online misinformation about the vaccine” and “historical mistrust of the medical system of which they are a part.”

Forty-eight percent of all COVID-19 related fatalities in Virginia have occurred in long-term care facilities. Despite strict lockdown protocols, the disease enters facilities by piggybacking on employees. Vaccinating nurses and other employees at long-term facilities is critical to stemming the infection of vulnerable elderly residents. 

WaPo cites the example of Trio Healthcare, which operates 11 nursing homes in Virginia. Chief Clinical Officer Melissa Green said employees initially bought into various myths about the vaccine, which included rumors that they had serious side effects and conspiracy theories about government plans to implant microchip in residents.

Then, of course, there’s America’s long history of racism. Writes the Post: Continue reading

The Washington Post’s Latest Hit Job on VMI

William Wanovich

by James A. Bacon

I don’t know what the Virginia Military Institute racism investigation ordered by Governor Ralph Northam will reveal. Perhaps it will turn up evidence that racism is as “relentless” as The Washington Post says it is. In the meantime, though, I can’t quite decide if it is hilarious or vomit-inducing to watch the Post and its intrepid reporter Ian Shapira shoehorning facts to fit its racism narrative. The harder the WaPo spins, the less inclined I am to believe a single word.

Here’s the the headline from an article published three days ago: “VMI commandant to retire as racial reckoning continues.”

It seems that Commandant William “Bill” Wanovich, who oversees military training for VMI’s 1,700 cadets, is retiring at the end of the academic year. Shapira frames his departure in the context of the investigation into what Northam called — on the basis of previous WaPo articles — the school’s “clear and appalling cultural of ongoing structural racism.” Continue reading

Facebook, MailChimp Suspend Virginia Gun Rights Group’s Access

Philip Van Cleave. Credit: Rappahannock News

by James A. Bacon

Are the social media giants moving beyond de-platforming groups and individuals who participated in the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol building to de-platforming conservative groups indiscriminately?

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), says his personal Facebook account was suspended last week. That action followed Mailchip’s suspension of its email service to VCDL. Continue reading

Hark! A COVID Miracle!

by Kerry Dougherty

I tend to be cynical, but still I dismissed the folks who predicted that once Joe Biden was elected, the lockdowns and shutdowns that had crushed the American economy would start to fall away.

“Just wait till after the election,” they warned.

You’re insane, I thought. I believed — still do — that the Biden administration would pressure governors to close it all down, then, as the vaccine was widely distributed and warmer weather arrived, the new president could claim victory over the pandemic.

Maybe I was wrong. Look at what’s happened in just the past week even as COVID infections grow in many places, including Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam, the man who once outlawed sitting on the beach or playing loud music in the sand as bizarre COVID-curbing measures, and the first governor in the country to shutter schools for the entire 2020 school year, now says it’s imperative schools reopen because our kids are turning into dunces. Continue reading

More Loss of Press Coverage

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In the past two years that I have been posting on BR, I have relied heavily on the coverage of the General Assembly by the Daily Press of Newport News, particularly the reporting by David Ress. It seems that he is now off the Virginia state government beat and now mostly covers news related to the military. That is a shame. For the top story from yesterday related to the legislature, Sen. Amanda Chase’s reaction to the effort to censure her, the Daily Press reprinted a story from the Petersburg Progress Index. With the further decline in coverage by the Daily Press and the Virginian Pilot, the residents of the second most populous section of the state will learn less and less about what their state government is doing.

Can “Medium” Save Local Journalism?

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

By DJ Rippert

The medium is the message. Medium is an online publishing website founded by Evan Williams — who also co-founded Blogger and Twitter. The genre of Medium is sometimes called social journalism. As described in Wikipedia, social journalism “relies on community involvement, audience engagement, social newsgathering and verification, data and analytics, and relationship-building.” That’s all true. However, the biggest point is that authors get paid to write for Medium. Medium generates revenue by selling subscriptions at $5 per month. People who buy those subscriptions are called “members.” Members are eligible to enroll in Medium’s partner program. People in that program are eligible to earn money based on the level of engagement the author’s stories get from other members. While Medium keeps its payment algorithms secret most members believe that the amount paid is calculated based on the number of members who read the story and how long they spend reading it. In some ways Medium could be considered Uber for writers. It facilitates easy paid participation in the gig economy of writing. Continue reading

Mark Zuckerberg, Call Your Lawyer

by James C. Sherlock

“You don’t need a Weatherman To know which way the wind blows.” — Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Consider this:

“Facebook was hit with twin lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from dozens of states on Wednesday, in one of the most serious challenges ever to the Silicon Valley giant. The cases could potentially result in Facebook being broken up.

Here’s what you need to know.

The FTC and the states accuse Facebook of abusing its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition,” Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. “Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

And that story was dated Dec. 11, 2020. 

Maybe last week was not the best time for Facebook to kick that hornets’ nest with another potential antitrust violation. Continue reading

Hedge Fund Moves on Virginian-Pilot Parent Company

by Kerry Dougherty

If you think The Virginian-Pilot is just a shadow of what it once was, just wait.

It may get worse.

A lot worse.

Perhaps you heard, Alden Global Capital – a hedge fund that Vanity Fair once described as “the grim reaper of American newspapers” – is poised to buy The Tribune Publishing company, the parent of The Pilot, The Daily Press and 75 other newspapers.

Terrible news for Southeastern Virginia, which could find itself essentially newspaper-less in the future.

This move has been in the works for more than a year. The New York Times reported the alarming news this way: Continue reading

Media Bashing at Bacon’s Rebellion

by Peter Galuszka

Two recent blog posts critical of The Washington Post and The New York Times are way out of line.

They assume that two leading newspapers have a definite agenda on race.

Jim Bacon goes after the Post for reporting about the bad experiences a Black student, Rafael Jenkins, endured during  ‘”Rat Week” hazing at the Virginia Military Institute.

When Jenkins was reluctant to recite the names of 10 VMI graduates who died while fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War, a senior cadet screamed at him that he’d be lynched and his body would be used as a punching bag.

Jenkins, who had been suspected of cheating during his ACT entry exam, was accused of cheating on a test at VMI. He was convicted of what seems largely circumstantial evidence and left the school. The Post piece lays this all out.

Is this a story? Of course it is. Black alumni have made vigorous calls to investigate systemic racism at the state-supported school. The president has resigned. Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered a probe of what is going on.

This blog skirts these issues by claiming there is no racism and not questioning why Virginia taxpayers are footing the bill for such behavior. Why pay for such ridiculous hazing? If the state wants a Parris Island, then erect one. It is so odd that conservative VMI gets a pass while the more liberal University of Virginia is the devil incarnate. Continue reading

Mitigating COVID-Related Learning Losses – Conflicted Advice Gets an Airing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Old School House Photo by Steve McKinzie

by James C. Sherlock

Any attention given to learning losses is welcome, but some are more welcome than others.

Data published in an op-ed by Kristen Amundson in the Richmond Times-Dispatch give preliminary evidence of the destruction of K-12 learning that has been going on since last March.

“A new poll from Christopher Newport University found that 75% of Virginia parents are worried their children are falling behind in school because of disruptions caused by COVID-19. More than half (53%) are “very worried.”

They’re right.

Nine months after the pandemic led to school closures, we have data on how well students are learning. The answer: Not well.

This past month, Fairfax County Public Schools reported an 83% increase in the number of middle and high school students receiving an “F” in two or more classes. Unsurprisingly, students with disabilities, English learners and economically disadvantaged students did even worse, with jumps of more than 350%.

The nonprofit testing organization NWEA reported in November that students’ math scores dropped five to 10 percentage points from this past year. While reading scores roughly held constant, even students who are making some progress show smaller gains than in the past, “resulting in more students falling behind relative to their prior standing,” NWEA says.

Her data are illustrative. I think even those predictions will prove optimistic under SOL testing.

Continue reading

When I Was “Canceled” at UVa

by Matthew Cameron

Cancel culture has been a hot topic in 2020. Most recently, it’s become a discussion point among those concerned about the state of academic freedom and intellectual diversity at my own alma mater, the University of Virginia.

The strongest critique of cancel culture at UVA emerged in October when alumnus Joel Gardner published an open letter to University President Jim Ryan imploring him to “strongly condemn the ‘cancel culture’ practice” and “focus on the real diversity that is important on college campuses–diversity of thought–rather than diversity of race, ethnicity and gender which has proven to be divisive.”

Reading Gardner’s letter and follow-up column for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, I was reminded of my own brush with cancel culture as a student newspaper editor at UVA almost a decade ago. Recalling that tumultuous time inspires within me the same concern that Gardner and others have expressed about the threat of intellectual intimidation within our campus communities.

Yet my experience also illustrates a problem with Gardner’s conclusion that “the main culprit behind these problems has been the purposeful politicization of our college communities” and his recommendation that UVA should “emphasize the traditions and values that have bound Wahoos together for decades — most especially honor and trust.” Continue reading