Category Archives: Media

Is There Something about Restrictive Speech Environments that Attracts Journalism Majors?

An economics major

by James C. Sherlock

Most of the best journalists in American history had only a high school diploma.

Charles Dickens, a voracious reader with a very limited and interrupted formal education, was a journalist and one of the most honored writers ever.

The Columbia School of Journalism offers, if that is the right word, a masters degree in journalism.

In 2018 the price tag of the Columbia Journalism School, admitted the Columbia Journalism Review, was $105,820 for a 10-month program, $147,418 for a 12-month program, or $108,464 per year for a two-year program. That was a $216,928 graduate degree, on top of all the costs associated with gaining the undergraduate prerequisites.

In 2022, in a demonstration of “shrinkflation” worthy of the business school, the cost of the now-9-month graduate journalism degree program at Columbia is $120,000.

Virginia Tech is a player in the same market.

But then I guess that depends upon how you define player. Continue reading

A Primatologist at The Washington Post

Snowflake, the only known albino western lowland gorilla, as seen in the Barcelona Zoo. Died in 2003.

by James C. Sherlock

And they wonder why they are hated by people outside the bubble.

A story by Stephanie McCrummen in The Washington Post, “In rural Georgia, an unlikely rebel against Trumpism,” comes across as an attempt at Hillbilly Elegy as written by a primatologist.

Primatologists study primates in order to understand their evolution and behavior.

The Post, having returned Ms. McCrummen from assignment covering East and Central Africa, sends her this time to the wilds of the South to examine the animals.

To northwest Georgia. Marjorie Taylor-Greene’s district.

She found, in his native habitat!, a 33-year-old white! veteran electrician (he has a beard! And a brutal father! Left home at 15!) who voted against! Donald Trump, Ms. Greene and Herschel Walker.

She examines him as if he has three arms and describes the local landscape with as much amazement as if it was the dark side of Mars. Green Hills of Africa without Hemingway’s talent.

It is “long form” for your reading pleasure. Condescension drips from every paragraph.

The natives are presumed too ignorant to understand.

Probably don’t even read the Post.

FOIA Council Responds on Request to UVa for Threat Assessment Team Records on Shooter

by James C. Sherlock

On Sunday I asked the FOIA Council to provide an advisory opinion on the University of Virginia’s decision that information about that school’s threat assessment team deliberations in the case of the November shooter, Christopher Jones, will not be released as I requested.

I received the answer this afternoon, which is far quicker than I anticipated. The Council suggests a more binding route. I quote:

Dear Mr. Sherlock:

In this instance, it appears that there may be some miscommunication or misunderstanding given that it appears that you have asked for threat assessment team information and certain other information pertaining to Mr. Jones, but in reply the University has cited the scholastic information exemption rather than the threat assessment team information exemption.

You also mentioned that the University indicated that redaction of these records would be so extensive as to effectively render them meaningless. You are correct that the threat assessment team information exemption requires that certain information be made available after certain types of incidents, and it would appear to apply to such threat assessment team records after an incident such as this one that resulted in student deaths.

However, the University is also correct that scholastic records are exempt from mandatory disclosure (and although the University did not appear to cite other provisions of law, note that certain student contact information is actually prohibited from release pursuant to subsection B of § 2.2-3705.4, and there are also various provisions of law outside of FOIA that may also affect access to student records).

It is possible that either or both of these exemptions could apply in different scenarios depending on the actual contents of the records, but without knowing those contents, it is not possible to render an informed opinion regarding whether these records are exempt from disclosure or must be produced.

To that end, you asked that this office review the 65 records withheld by the University in this matter and render an opinion based on that review. The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council is a state legislative branch council that was created to issue opinions on the operation and application of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to publish educational materials, and to provide training about FOIA. Continue reading

Dead Students, UVa, and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act – Part One – Only One Client

Clifton M. Iler
University Counsel UVa

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Dec. 18 at 16:30

The deck is stacked against the press, at least in the first step.

The University of Virginia, unsurprisingly, considers it not in its interests to release information to the press about the work of its threat assessment team in the case of Christopher Darnell Jones.

Mr. Jones, after that team failed to act, shot five people, killing three.

UVa’s Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA, the Act) Officer works in the University Counsel’s office. The University Counsel’s job under Virginia law in civil matters is to defend the University. Protect it from things inimical to its interests.

The fact that this office also fields FOIA requests is and must be informed by that primary responsibility. That office will never knowingly break the law, but it will search it for provisions favorable to its client’s interest.

The office has only one client: the University.

Virginia’s FOIA law is dense. Most of its 48 pages are occupied with exceptions to the general duty to release information requested.

Agency attorneys are thus positioned to find an exception to repulse attempts at getting information that government agencies don’t want made public. Even if there is another part of that same law that arguably supports the request. The key modifier is “arguably.”

Such as information responsive to my FOIA request, which has been denied by the University Counsel’s office. I don’t blame them, I just disagree. They may prove right in the end. But the end is not yet here.

I will appeal to the FOIA Council, which contains Members of and works for the General Assembly. Different client.

If the information is ultimately to be released, we then will fight the next battle. Agencies get another bite of the apple. They get to make redactions they deem appropriate under the law.  

The University’s FOIA office has done nothing wrong.

Rather, I find a structural problem with a FOIA system that requires the press to ask an agency’s defense attorneys for information inimical to the interests of their clients.  And then lets those same attorneys redact prior to release.

It cannot work in favor of the freedom of information, so it doesn’t.

I am going to publish a series about my takeaways from this experience.

That at least you can read about. Continue reading

The Progressive Left Has Only One Story. It is on Endless Loop in the Press

Norway lemming. Courtesy Wikipedia

by James C. Sherlock

It is called defining the terms of the debate.

Sort of like naming a climate bill the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

The war to define the ground in a headline debate in Virginia is between supporters of either:

  • Virginia DOE’s draft “2022 Model Policies on the Privacy, Dignity and Respect for All Students and Parents in Virginia’s Public Schools;”  or
  • the last administration’s “Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools” that has been cancelled.

The draft VDOE document commits four secular sins at once:

  • It acknowledges the rights of parents;
  • It acknowledges that children are the responsibilities of their parents first and then the schools;
  • It provides measures to protect all students; and, most egregiously
  • It does not single out a victim class.  

Mortal sins against progressivism. Every one. The horror on the left is palpable.

Only one narrative is permitted in WokeWorld — Victims and Oppressors Sorted by Identity Group.

It is projected onto everything. Continue reading

Trump, Missiles, COVID, and Youngkin

by Kerry Dougherty

Yes, I heard. The whole country heard.

Donald Trump announced last night that he was running for president in 2024. The worst-kept secret in American history.

If I were a Democrat I’d be delighted.

While Trump always sucks the air out of the room and dominates the news cycle, other events were more important.

For instance, Poland reported yesterday that a Russian-made missile fell inside its border killing two, bringing the world ever closer to all-out war. Almost immediately #Article5 began trending on Twitter.

Russia denied that it fired one of its missiles into NATO territory, but the incident is a reminder that Europe is a very volatile place.

Oh, and apparently Joe Biden is feeling under the weather. Lucky us to have a feeble 80-year-old leading the Free World.

In an overlooked moment, the U.S. Senate voted 62-36 yesterday to terminate Biden’s COVID National Emergency declaration. Continue reading

Not Gilly Sullivan’s Alumni Association Anymore

Gilly Sullivan

by James A. Bacon

Aiming to address the lamentable decline in state/local news coverage, States Newsroom supports local news operations in 29 states, including Virginia.

As Jim Sherlock detailed here, the nonprofit organization was launched in 2017 by the left-of-center Hopewell Fund, which itself is managed by the left-of-center Arabella Advisors.

Its Virginia Mercury digital publication has made a valuable contribution to Virginia journalism by breaking many important stories. While the Mercury can credibly profess to be politically “nonpartisan,” its news coverage leans hard to the port side on environmental and social-justice issues.

In a nod to transparency, States Newsroom publishes the names of all individuals and groups that have contributed $500 or more since November 2019. One of the names listed is the “University of Virginia Alumni Association.”

Conservative UVa alumni might ask themselves the question: why is their alumni association contributing funds to a left-of-center news organization?

I posed that question to Richard Gard, vice president of communications for the association. It turns out that the alumni association did not make the contribution. Rather, it acted as a pass-through for another UVa-affiliated entity.

And therein lies a story illustrating the opaque organizational structure of the University of Virginia and its Oort Cloud of satellite foundations and affiliated groups. Continue reading

Virginia Not Ready to Criminalize Parents Who Reject Child’s Transgender Identity. Not Yet.

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman. Social workers know best!

by James A. Bacon

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, stirred the hornet’s nest when she told WJLA last week that she would reintroduce a bill to expand the definition of child abuse to include inflicting “physical or mental injury” on children due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Republicans criticized the criminalization of parental rights. The story went viral nationally before other local media had a chance to touch it.

The bill is so crazy (see Kerry Dougherty’s post below) that many Democrats have made a point of distancing themselves as well. But not all.

It’s worth noting that the original bill introduced in 2020 had two co-patrons: Del. Ibraheem Samirah, D-Herndon, and Senator Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond.

Also, while House Minority Leader Don L. Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth, declared that Guzman had assured him that she would not reintroduce a bill, he proceeded to defend her, according to The Washington Post. “She said her comments were taken out of context and that she does not want to criminalize any parents.” Continue reading

Independent Journalism – The Special Case of the Virginia Mercury

by James C. Sherlock

I look every day to the Virginia Public Access Project’s (VPAP) VaNews.

I am a donor.

It proclaims:

VaNews will consider ‘original news reporting’ that is published online by print newspapers, broadcast radio and TV stations and outlets that meet our standards as ‘online news providers.’

On that same page VaNews defines qualified “online news providers”, among other criteria, as publications that are “not produced by a political organization.”

Yet it endlessly publishes stories from the Virginia Mercury. Nothing wrong with progressive commentary. God knows Virginia Mercury is one voice in a very large chorus.

But those stories are produced by a hierarchy of political organizations founded by what both Politico and The New York Times have called a progressive “dark money” network.

A tax-exempt not-for-profit political network. Amplified by VPAP’s VaNews. Continue reading

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