Category Archives: Media

Occupational Hazard, 4 of 4

by Joe Fitzgerald

Two recent signs of the deterioration of journalism. One is this comment from President Biden to a gaggle of reporters:

I hear some of you guys saying is, ‘Why doesn’t Biden say what a good deal it is?’ Why would Biden say what a good deal it is before the vote? You think that’s going to help me get it passed? No. That’s why you guys don’t bargain very well.

The second is this, from Harrisonburg Patch, a news aggregator:

A 33-year-old teacher at James Madison Middle School has been accused of soliciting inappropriate pictures from a student, leading to criminal charges against him. The alleged incident involved the teacher requesting pictures from a student at the school where he was employed, according to the police. The teacher has been arrested.

The first is obvious. Biden mocked the press corps for its reporting skills, and the press corps reported it as a Biden idiosyncrasy instead of as a failing on their part. The second, a little less so. The algorithm saw James Madison and thought Harrisonburg, even though the school is in Maryland. And it showed up in my email as a local story, which is a little jarring considering my wife, Deb, chairs the School Board.
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Occupational Hazard, 3 of 4

by Joe Fitzgerald

In “A Pirate Looks at Forty” Jimmy Buffett describes the dilemma of one for whom the cannon doesn’t thunder: “My occupational hazard being my occupation’s just not around.” He could be describing journalists as well.

Journalism and piracy aren’t the only occupations disappearing, of course. The Chronicle of Higher Education and other pricey academic newsletters report regularly that universities are turning out more English and history doctorates than there are jobs to accommodate them. The magazine isn’t as worried about the loss of journalism jobs, possibly because journalists aren’t their audience. A site search of The Chronicle turns up 59 mentions of “journalism major,” mostly in job listings, and 268 mentions of “English major,” including this one:

Becoming an English major means pursuing the most important subject of all — being a human being. We’re sorry. Something went wrong.

I’m allowing for the possibility the search engine’s comments may be involved in that response. Still, something has gone wrong. The Daily News-Record is running stories about the Warren County sheriff to fill space with seemingly local stories. Six Virginia dailies will soon publish only three days a week, and by mail. The kid that started out delivering papers and wound up as a reporter will have to go back to the lemonade stand for spending money.
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Occupational Hazard, 2 of 4

by Joe Fitzgerald

A perceptive friend recently spoke to me about press releases his outfit would send to the Daily News-Record back in the day. He said they always wound up in the paper with small inaccuracies, and his perception was that the releases were handed to the least experienced reporters to teach them how to type and rewrite.

I know it looked like that from the outside, I explained, but what actually happened was that I gave them to the least experienced reporters to teach them how to type and rewrite. I was happy to be able to clear that up.

We ran Valley Briefs, Business Briefs, Real Estate Briefs, not to mention the ones in non-news sections of the paper. They piled up on my desk until a reporter needed make-work, or mild punishment, or until I got tired of looking at them. They came back and went into another pile, from whence I’d compare them to the reporter’s efforts to see if they — the release or the reporters — had improved. Nine out of 10 were improved, either in AP style or news sense or clarity, and I caught the errors in half of the remainder. That success rate may not have been as obvious to someone who saw “attorney” changed to “lawyer,” “firm” changed to “company,” parentheses changed to dashes, or John Smith changed to William Johnson.
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Occupational Hazard, 1 of 4

by Joe Fitzgerald

Harrisonburg police rescued a possible abduction victim one day last month after shooting the apparent perpetrator. A city press release said a domestic dispute on Old Furnace Road around 6:30 p.m. turned into an abduction. Police pursued the suspect’s vehicle to downtown, where they shot the suspect, who was apparently armed. The suspect was flown to UVa hospital and the victim was safe.

At least that’s what I got out of a Daily News Record story that included the line, “The pursuit ended in front of the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office following an officer-involved shooting that ultimately injured the suspect.”

Journalism is dead. Or, in the same jargon as the press release, “Journalism ended following a Craigslist-involved financial loss that ultimately ate the newspapers’ lunch.”
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Lee Enterprises and the Newspaper Business in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Lee Enterprises, about whose frantic search for cash I wrote yesterday, owns a dozen newspapers in Virginia.

For now.

  1. The Daily Progress – Charlottesville
  2. The Free Lance-Star – Fredericksburg
  3. Register & Bee/Go Dan River – Danville
  4. Bristol Herald Courier – Tricities – Bristol
  5. Martinsville Bulletin – Martinsville
  6. The News & Advance – Lynchburg
  7. The News Virginian – Waynesboro
  8. Richmond Times-Dispatch – Richmond
  9. The Roanoke Times – Roanoke
  10. Culpeper Star-Exponent – Culpeper
  11. SWVA Today – Wytheville
  12. The Franklin News-Post – Rocky Mount

Lee’s current nationwide total of what it calls news “brands” is 85. It is a small and highly leveraged business.

This morning its stock (LEE:NASDAQ) market cap is about $81M at $13.37 per share at yesterday’s close. With $433M in debt, the enterprise value is $524M (Schwab).

Lee is teetering financially, and has been since it successfully but expensively fought off a late 2021 hostile takeover bid from Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund.

Alden owns The Virginian-Pilot, the Commonwealth’s largest daily, and the Daily Press on the Peninsula. It has been written that Alden’s business model is simple:

gut the staff, sell the real estate, jack up subscription prices, and wring out as much cash as possible.

We have already seen Lee Enterprises gut the staffs of its Virginia papers.

I haven’t tracked the real estate transactions, but now it is jacking up subscription prices to avoid selling its inventory or trying to obtain additional financing.

We’ve seen this play before. Continue reading

Lee Enterprises Newspapers in Virginia Combine Huge Online Subscription Price Increases with Difficult Cancellations

Notice from The Roanoke Times subscriber services.

by James C. Sherlock

Lee Enterprises, in a bold move, has massively raised prices for online subscriptions to its Virginia newspapers, to some of which I subscribe.

Lee’s “brands”  here include:

  1. The Daily Progress – Charlottesville
  2. The Free Lance Star – Fredericksburg
  3. Danville Register Bee/Go Dan River – Danville
  4. Bristol Herald Courier – Tricities – Bristol
  5. Martinsville Bulletin – Martinsville
  6. The News and Advance – Lynchburg
  7. The News Virginian – Waynesboro
  8. Richmond Times-Dispatch – Richmond
  9. The Roanoke Times – Roanoke
  10. Culpeper Star-Exponent – Culpeper
  11. SWVA Today – Wytheville
  12. The Franklin News-Post – Rocky Mount

I have for years subscribed to the ones in bold above.  Online ad sales must not be going well.  Lee in a sudden move has roughly tripled online subscription prices.

It also has made it very difficult for customers to cancel.

Perhaps someone should look into this to see if the difficulty of the cancellation is legal. Continue reading

Post Attacks Homeschooling Because It Succeeds

Derrick Max

by Derrick Max

Over the last few years, homeschooling has grown in Virginia by almost 40 percent. In fact, homeschoolers in Virginia now account for almost 60,000 students — making homeschooling the fifth largest school district in the Commonwealth. Because homeschoolers are self-funded, this saves Virginia’s state and local governments almost $800 million per year.

More importantly, homeschoolers outperform public school students in almost every measurable category. Homeschoolers score significantly higher on standardized tests, have higher college graduation rates, lower rates of depression and anxiety, and succeed at higher rates as adults.

Yet, The Washington Post reported in The Revolt of the Christian Home-Schoolers (May 30, 2023), based almost solely on one couple’s experience, as a “conscious rejection of contemporary ideas about biology, history, gender equity and the role of religion in American Government.” The article, with scant evidence, concludes that there is an “unmistakable backlash” of formerly homeschooled children denouncing homeschooling.

Riddled with references to “indoctrination” and “abuse,” homeschooling is painted by The Washington Post as a fringe and dangerous educational option. These homeschoolers “could not recover or reconstruct the lost opportunities of their childhood” as “there were so many things they had not learned.” Continue reading

Political Correctness More Important than Accuracy in News Reports of Slaying

by Kerry Dougherty

Is it too much to ask the news media to put accuracy ahead of their political agendas?

We asked this in March when activists were more obsessed with pronouns than the fact that the trans Nashville school shooter, who killed three little kids and three adults, was occasionally referred to as a female. That’s what she was, by the way.

Now this from the local newspaper:

This is not true. The accused is a biological man. The slain man’s son. Continue reading

VMI’s DEI Chief Resigns — “Vitriolic” VMI Critics Implicated

Jamica Love

by James A. Bacon

Virginia Military Institute’s chief diversity officer, Jamica Love, has resigned nearly two years after taking on the job of implementing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the military institute.

While Superintendent Cedric T. Wins noted that Love served with distinction and professionalism, VMI gave no reason for her resignation. She has issued no statement and turned down an interview request.

My purpose in writing about Love’s resignation is not to highlight her role in the ongoing controversy over DEI at VMI — my sense is that she did exactly what was expected of her — but to explore how The Washington Post has framed her departure. Writer Ian Shapira takes the opportunity once again to recite the litany of racism allegations against VMI and cast the controversy as a good guys/bad guys melodrama with the black hats worn by “a political action committee of mostly White conservative graduates called The Spirit of VMI.” Continue reading

The Sucking Sounds Gets Louder

by James A. Bacon

Six Virginia newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises — the Bristol Herald Courier, the (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, the (Culpeper) Star-Exponent, the (Danville) Register & Bee, the Martinsville Bulletin, and the (Waynesboro) News Virginian — will begin publishing “expanded” print editions three days a week and deliver them by postal mail rather than using traditional newspaper carriers, reports Cardinal News… a digital publication.

How long until the Richmond, Norfolk, and Roanoke newspapers are reduced to three days a week? Continue reading

Is This Cartoon Racist?

by James A. Bacon

Is the cartoon above, drawn by Virginia Military Institute alumnus Matt Daniel, racist?

Former Governor L. Douglas Wilder thinks so. “It’s clearly racist,” he told Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira after Shapira showed it to him.

Shapira evidently thinks so, too. “Some say” the depiction of Martin Brown, Virginia’s African-American director of Diversity, Opportunity & Inclusion, “resembles a monkey,” he wrote.

Wilder is one person. The word “some” implies that there are others. None are named or alluded to. In a long-standing Washington Post reportorial tradition of the scribe attributing his own opinions to nameless others, Shapira appears to be referencing himself.

Shapira was decent enough to quote Daniel, who happens to be chairman of the Spirit of VMI PAC and a defender of VMI traditions that Shapira has relentlessly assailed as racist and sexist. “It is not a monkey. That doesn’t even make sense,” Daniel texted. “It is a voodoo doll in a business suit being harassed by a hostile writer.”

So… whom do we believe? Let’s undertake a critical examination of the cartoon to see whose interpretation — Shapira’s or Daniels’ — makes the most sense. Continue reading

As Newspapers Struggle, Local News is Harder to Find in Virginia

by Christopher Connell

It is, unfortunately, old news.

Virginia’s newspapers, the single biggest source of local news, face unprecedented challenges, with their readers, revenues, and staffs steadily dwindling.

It’s a paradox because news writ large now seems to be available everywhere, all the time, on phones in our pockets and purses.

People still hear about bickering in Congress, mysterious Chinese balloons overhead, and blizzards burying Buffalo. What they learn less about is what’s going on in their own backyards, towns, schools, counties, and state capitals.

Some 2,500 U.S. newspapers have closed since 2005, some over-reliant on advertising-dependent business models that cratered with the rise of the Internet, many simply killed by their market areas’ struggling economies. Most were print weeklies, where most people got their local news. Continue reading

No, Climate Change is Not Adding Home Runs

Rise and fall of home runs in major and minor leagues compared. No climate change in minor league parks! Source: Roger Pielke Jr.

by Steve Haner

Maybe if a claim is repeated more than once, it won’t sound so absurd?  Perhaps that is why the Richmond Times-Dispatch felt it necessary to print two stories today about the recent ludicrous claim that “climate change” is making it easier to hit a home run.

“Since 2010, more than 500 dingers can be linked to warmer than average conditions because of climate change, according to a new study,” is the summary in a photo cutline illustrating one of the stories, a Washington Post reprint on page C-2.   The paper’s full-time climate alarmism correspondent Sean Sublette also discusses the “study” in his column on his daily weather and climate crisis page.

Perhaps neither had seen that the Post’s original story quickly drew a response so strong as to constitute disproof, from another climate scientist, this one not a member of the climate crisis priesthood.  The Unbeliever dared to compare the Major League Baseball home run statistics at the heart of the “study” with similar home run statistics from AAA baseball, the NCAA’s Division 1 baseball teams, and even the Japanese professional leagues.

The home run patterns there are different.  It seems climate change is only happening in MLB stadiums.  What a relief!

The University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke, Jr. packaged his response on Twitter, and it was then shared by The Wall Street Journal.  Very much worth a read.  You won’t find any of the rebuttal data in that failed rag of a Richmond newspaper. Continue reading

Too Much Sulfur Dioxide? Ah, Don’t Worry, It’s Just a Little Fine

AdvanSix chemical plant, Hopewell. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch has a story that illustrates the importance and need for vigorous local journalism, while also illustrating the limitations of local journalism due to the lack of seasoned reporters and editors.

The story deals with the violation of environmental regulations by a chemical plant in Hopewell. The plant, a cornerstone of manufacturing in Hopewell, has been there a long time, under at least three owners. It is huge, covering about 200 acres. It is the facility responsible for dumping Kepone into the James River between 1966 and 1975, when it came under court order for the practice. The current owner is AdvanSix, headquartered in Parsippany, N.J.

As reported by the RTD, the plant has been cited 66 times over the past eight years for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the company has violated the Clean Air Act “every month over the past two years.” Continue reading

News or Commentary? You Decide

by James A. Bacon

The Washington Post leads its story about Governor Glenn Younkin’s comments on the indictment of former president Donald Trump this way:

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is famous for being just Trumpy enough to woo MAGA Republicans without alienating more moderate voters, but the former president’s indictment this week by a Manhattan grand jury investigating hush-money payments to an adult-film star found Youngkin leaping to Donald Trump’s defense.

It goes on to quote Youngkin not as defending Trump but criticizing the New York district attorney who prosecuted him.

‘It is beyond belief that District Attorney Alvin Bragg has indicted a former President and current presidential candidate for pure political gain. Arresting a presidential candidate on a manufactured basis should not happen in America,’ Youngkin tweeted on his personal account Thursday night after the news broke. ‘The left’s continued attempts to weaponize our judicial system erode people’s faith in the American justice system and it needs to stop.’

Reporters Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella proceed to quote tweets, emails and comments from five Youngkin critics, contrast Youngkin’s “forceful response” to the Trump indictment with his restrained response to Irvo Otieno’s death in a state mental health facility “in his own state,” and assert that the governor’s comment belies “his carefully crafted image as a zipped-up vest-wearing suburban moderate.”

If this article had appeared in the op-ed section of The Washington Post, I would not have given it a second thought. But Schneider and Vozzella purport to report the “news.” Continue reading