Category Archives: Media

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

Richmond’s Infamous Icon

Credit: National Geographic

By Peter Galuszka

Since 1890, the Robert E. Lee Monument has dominated Richmond’s grand Monument Avenue and has stood as a striking protector of the state’s long history of systemic racism.

True, other Confederate heroes such as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart also found a memorial spot on the Avenue but Lee has always been the main one. He has been a sentimental touchstone for romantics of the Lost Cause and of derision about people hurt by the system.

Now, Richmond and Virginia are paying a price for more than a century of refusing to own up to what it all really meant.

The famed National Geographic magazine has made a cover photo of the defaced Lee statue repurposed as a memorial to George Floyd, the Black man who was killed by police after he was arrested and handcuffed.

The Geographic was listing the top photos of 2020, a wild and depressing year that brought the coronavirus pandemic, riots in cities and the constant chaos of Donald Trump.

That’s not all. In October, The New York Times Magazine proclaimed that the defaced Lee monument was the most influential work of art since World War II. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: A Shout Out to Virginia’s Indy News Outlets

Here is a shout-out to three small publications that are covering important Virginia news stories while the commercial media continues to shrink into impotence, irrelevance, or in the case of the Washington Post, malevolence. — JAB

Give credit where credit is due. The Virginia Mercury is a left-of-center publication, but it is hammering the Northam administration for a lack of transparency regarding alleged Virginia Parole Board misconduct. An Office of the Inspector General (OSIG) report concluded this summer that the parole board had violated its victim-notification procedures when granting parole to a convicted killer. The Northam administration got wind of the findings, and when report was issued it was so heavily redacted that it was almost unreadable. Republicans have been raising hell about the lack of transparency… and the Mercury has been remarkably sympathetic. Read the Mercury’s latest update here.

Speaking of independent media outlets…. The newly created Virginia Star is establishing itself as a worthwhile news source. Today the publication featured an interview of Angela Greene, the female African-American police chief who was placed on administrative leave after her department announced felony charges against Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Lucas had helped organize a rally this summer in which protesters spray painted the a Confederate statue. Later that night, protesters beheaded four statues of soldiers attached to the monument, and the monument fell upon a man and killed him. The charges resulted in an uproar as Democrats rallied to the defense of Lucas, one of Virginia’s longest-serving African-American legislators. In the resulting fallout Greene, who herself had replaced a previous female African-American police chief, was canned. She gave her first public interview to the Star. Said she: “I was retaliated against because I refused to treat criminal behavior differently because of the alleged offenders race, creed, gender, or political affiliation.”

More COVID fallout. James Madison University recorded 783 students who accepted then withdrew or deferred their enrollment at JMU this fall. The unexpected loss of those students blew a $12.6 million hole in the university’s budget, reports the student newspaper The Breeze. The no-shows cited the coronavirus as the main cause for their decision. Some who unenrolled cited their fear that online classes would limit opportunities to connect with faculty. Others cited fears that they might expose vulnerable family members to the virus. Every university has been struggling with how to manage the virus, but JMU more than most. The student newspaper has been on top of the story from the beginning.

VMI Wins with Wins as Interim Superintendent

Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Military Institute has appointed retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, an African-American, as interim superintendent. He will serve while the Board of Visitors searches for a permanent replacement for retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, who resigned after Governor Ralph Northam announced an investigation into charges of “relentless racism” at the military academy.

You can read a straight news story about the appointment in the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.

You can read a jaundiced joke of a “news” story about the appointment by so-called “reporter” Ian Shapira in the Washington Post here.

First a few facts about Wins…. He graduated from VMI in 1985, sixteen years after the military academic was desegregated, and spent 34 years in the Army. Son of an Army veteran and police officer, Wins, now 57, attended VMI on a basketball scholarship and starred as a shooting guard. He remains on the team’s top all-five scorer’s list. After earning a degree in economics, he was required to serve three years in the Army. As the RTD recounts, although he had never intended to make the Army career, the Army kept presenting him with opportunities, and he kept on taking them. His final post before retirement was commander of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, the Army’s largest technology developer. Continue reading

WaPo’s Journalistic Jihad Against VMI Continues…

Ian Shapira

by James A. Bacon

President-elect Biden may be calling for national unity after a contentious presidential election, but the Washington Post hasn’t gotten the message. Post reporter Ian Shapira continues his campaign against the Virginia Military Institute, which he has charged is guilty of “relentless racism,” by slanting coverage of the pending state investigation of the military school.

Pajama boy

In a story co-authered with Laura Vozzella, he wrote:

RICHMOND — Virginia Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. used inflammatory language Monday as he denounced the resignation of Virginia Military Institute’s superintendent, warning lawmakers: “You cannot let the media lynch VMI.”

Apparently, in the eyes of our media overlords, it is now problematical for white people to use the term “lynching.” The statement, writes Shapira, was jarring to some lawmakers because a white student in 2018 threatened to “lynch” a Black freshman. (VMI suspended the offending student, but no need to mar a spicy narrative with messy details.) Continue reading

COVID Is Still News

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I seem to recall that contributors and comments on this blog often said that “come November 4, COVID will no longer be a big news item.” The implication, of course, was that the main national news organizations were hyping the COVID issue in order to damage the Trump administration.

Well, it is now November 9, almost one week after the election and Biden has been declared the winner. Let’s check on how COVID is being covered.

Washington Post

  • Print edition–lead story:  Biden Moves Fast on Virus and Economy.  Additional story:  Latest COVID surge is breaking records
  • website, 5:00 a.m. today — President-elect Biden announces coronavirus task force made up of physicians and health experts

New York Times 

  • Front page, print edition: “Terrifying” Surge Awaits a New Administration, sub-head: U.S. Virus Cases Pass 10 Million as Colder Weather Looms

Richmond Times-Dispatch Continue reading

America’s New Ruling Class: Washington Post Edition

So long, Stonewall

by James A. Bacon

That didn’t take long. In the wake of Washington Post articles alleging systemic racism at the Virginia Military Institute, the Board of Visitors voted Thursday to remove the statue of Stonewall Jackson from its campus. The action follows the Monday resignation of J.H. Binford Peay III, the institute’s superintendent, who had resisted calls to remove the statue on the grounds that Jackson, one of America’s iconic military geniuses, had been an instructor at the Institute before the Civil War.

After the board’s capitulation, Chairman John “Bill” Boland told the Washington Post, “It’s time to move forward. [The monument] was drawing a lot of fire and distracting from what our true mission is. The most important thing to me is to maintain our mission and our methods.”

The board also voted to create a diversity office and a diversity inclusion committee. Of its 17 board members, three are black, noted reporter Ian Shapira. Also, he observed, “All of the school’s top officials, including the VMI chief of staff, the faculty dean and the inspector general/Title IX coordinator, are White men.”

I got to thinking, how diverse is the Washington Post editorial staff? Does the Post live up to the standards it imposes on others? The newspaper lists its newsroom leadership here. You can click on the names, and in most cases you will find a photograph by which you can discern the individual’s gender and race. But I’ll save you the trouble. Scroll down and see if you detect a pattern. (To read my wrap-up, scroll all the way to the bottom.) Continue reading

Connolly: Expel VMI Students Guilty of Racist Conduct, Track Thought Crimes

Rep Gerald Connolly: Expel VMI students guilty of racist conduct. Question: Who decides what’s “racist” — the Washington Post? Photo credit: Stream.org.

by James A. Bacon

Representative Gerald Connolly, D-Va., and other congressional Democrats have written Governor Ralph Northam, calling for the expulsion of students at the Virginia Military Institute who have been found guilty of “racist or discriminatory conduct.”

Citing a Washington Post article that alleged the existence of “relentless racism” at the military institute, the letter from the House Armed Service Committee decried “lynching threats, professors openly reminiscing about the Ku Klux Klan, a campus culture that venerates the Confederacy and little to no disciplinary action by VMI.”

“We are dismayed that racism is tolerated and has been allowed to persist throughout VMI,” says the letter. The congressmen made three requests:

  1. Remove any statues or symbols that memorialize leaders of the Confederacy.
  2. Conduct regular climate surveys of cadets and recent alumni “to gauge the prevalence of racist beliefs, experiences of discrimination, and harassment within the institution.”
  3. Immediately expel “any offending cadet or faculty member who breaches the honor code through racist or discriminatory conduct.”

Continue reading

Stonewall Jackson: Getting It Right

by Kerry Dougherty

Newspapers aren’t what they once were. That’s especially true for the lean local papers that serve our area.

They’ve laid off staff, farmed out editing and rely heavily on wire copy from the national newspapers.

Yes, there is a knot of earnest young reporters trying desperately to cover the region, but they don’t have the numbers for comprehensive coverage and they’re all working without a net. Shoot, newspaper staff no longer have a building since the old Pilot offices on Brambleton Avenue were sold and The Daily Press headquarters in Newport News was shutdown last month.

There was a time when any story with even the most tenuous Virginia connection was covered aggressively by local staff writers. After all, they knew the commonwealth. Those big-shot, out-of-town scribes who parachuted in for the occasional national story didn’t.

Lately, however, even Navy stories are coming from the Associated Press and coverage of the alleged racial strife at the Virginia Military Institute are brought to readers courtesy of The New York Times. Continue reading

Why We Love Governor Ralph

Governor Northam loving those poll numbers. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Peter Galuszka

He’s been through “coonman,” “blackface,” a muddled interview about late term abortion, and aggressive and controversial steps to stop the pandemic, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has sprinted through a recent statewide poll with flying colors.

According to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll, more than half of Virginia’s registered voters approve of the overall job performance of Gov. Ralph Northam, and an even larger majority support his handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Northam’s job approval rating of 56 percent is up from 49 percent about a year ago and from 43 percent in the wake of his blackface scandal in early 2019, “The Post said.

“His disapproval is also up, at 38 percent from 31 percent last year, with far fewer voters now expressing no opinion. But his ratings remain net positive by 18 percentage points.”

The Governor gets a drubbing on this blog, but not with people who really count, given their numbers. Continue reading