Dominion to Sponsor Bacon's Rebellion

Dominion_logo3by James A. Bacon

Bacon’s Rebellion is pleased to announce that Dominion is sponsoring year-long blog commentary and journalistic coverage of energy and environmental issues in Virginia.

Dominion joins a list of Bacon’s Rebellion sponsors that has included the Piedmont Environmental Council, Bon Secours Richmond and Smart Growth America. Like its predecessors, Dominion asks for nothing more than objective, in-depth commentary and journalism. Dominion will exercise no editorial control over content published by Bacon’s Rebellion.

Unlike previous sponsorships, this one may prove to be controversial. Dominion is regarded in some quarters with suspicion and hostility due to its extensive lobbying clout, large contributions to Virginia electoral campaigns and significant impact on rate payers and the environment. When I weighed the pros and cons of a Dominion sponsorship, I had to consider the possibility that critics might accuse Dominion of having “bought” me to influence my journalistic coverage. After careful consideration, I decided not to be deterred.

First, my professional reputation as a journalist is the source of my livelihood and is not something I will compromise. If anything, Dominion’s sponsorship will cause me to downplay personal opinions of a politically conservative nature that might be construed as sympathetic to the company in favor of pursuing a more straightforward, journalistic approach.

Second, the beauty of the blog format is that readers will hold me accountable. Readers show me no mercy as it is, which I regard as a blessing because they keep me honest and prevent me from getting lazy. If I cut Dominion slack it doesn’t deserve, readers will tell me about it. Loudly.

Third, in the interest of full transparency, I am posting the sponsorship agreement online, with only the dollar amount of the sponsorship redacted.

Here’s how I envision approaching energy and environment. The big story is how the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan will be implemented in Virginia and what impact the restructuring of Virginia’s energy industry will have on consumers, the economy and the environment. It’s a many tentacled story, reaching into such issues as nuclear energy, renewable fuels, energy efficiency and natural gas production, among others.  I’ll be writing about all those, as well as related matters such as pipelines, transmission lines and the demand for energy in Virginia’s economy. I will endeavor to develop a wide range of sources in the electric power industry, the political and regulatory communities, the business and financial worlds, the environmental community, academia, and among entities representing consumers and rate payers. As Virginia’s largest energy company, with stakes in electricity and natural gas, Dominion will be an important contact, and I will solicit Dominion’s views just as I solicit the views of others.

I am entirely comfortable with the arrangement. Indeed, thanks to this sponsorship, I will be able to dig into one of the biggest issues of our time and to explore perspectives that otherwise would be overlooked in Virginia. I see that as a benefit for everyone.

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0 responses to “Dominion to Sponsor Bacon's Rebellion

  1. Dear Mr. Bacon:

    We were very disappointed to learn that you chose Dominion as your premier sponsor over our organization. In our opinion we are every bit as credible a sponsor as Dominion.

    Regards,

    North Korean Bureau of Tourism.

  2. I’m totally in favor of the sponsorship and see it as an opportunity for Dominion itself to do some dialoging on the issues perhaps even giving their perspective on some of the issues.

    I see this as an OPPORTUNITY for Dominion to actually improve their relationship with the folks who depend on them fulfilling their mission!

    I do not think Dominion is “evil” or nefarious by the way – I see them as a principled company with a serious mission that they do take seriously and that is never more apparent than when one’s electricity goes out and they work 24/7 to get it back on.

    I’m fine with them making a profit and even lobbying the GA .. it’s their right.

    but I would like to see Dominion be more friendly to SOLAR and to do a little less of proxy demonizing of the EPA and a little more forward thinking about how a evolve to a more reliable – distributed system.

  3. I admire Dominion for taking this step.

  4. This obviously impacts me personally since my name is associated with this blog and I have been covering Dominion, formerly Vepco, aggressively since the early 1970s.

    I am not worried about Dominion’s sponsorship of the blog, which I do not see as all that different than if I worked for a newspaper or magazine and Dominion was an advertiser.

    I have checked with another reputable outlet for whom I often contribute and they told me they do not have a problem with Jim’s arrangement. What’s more, I personally, will not benefit from Dominion’s sponsorship directly because the payment involves Jim only. Some years ago, when the Piedmont Environmental Council did sponsor some projects, I did benefit financially from that.

    The one troublesome thing about this is that Dominion says it will dump Bacon’s Rebellion if it gets an other sponsor it doesn’t like. My hope had been that Jim would get a second sponsor, perhaps an environmental group, as a way to balance Dominion. That is not going to happen. Therein lies the rub. It’s like Kroger saying it will buy two Sunday newspaper pages of ads from you provided you don’t also sell to Food Lion. As a business practice, that sucks.

    The real test is if the freedom of this blog is changed in anyway. If it does, I know what I will do.

    One other point, those of us aging journalists who used to do very well have been hit hard by the Net and changes within the industry. The vast majority of what I have done for Bacon’s Rebellion is pro bono. I have to keep my other paying gigs going to be able to contribute here or elsewhere. So, if there is unfair criticism, my question would be, “how are we going to make a living, pay for the phone, the Internet, etc.?

    One benefit is that with a blog like this, you can put what you believe to be the truth up for all to see in a few minutes. You do not have to go through layers of editors and publishers with obvious axes to grind and agendas. I’ve never been censored yet at Bacon’s Rebellion but have seen my stories spiked elsewhere.

    In the unlikely event that happens at Bacon’s Rebellion, I’ll be fired or fire myself. It wouldn’t be the first time.

    • Peter, you say, “Dominion says it will dump Bacon’s Rebellion if it [BR] gets an other sponsor it doesn’t like.” In my experience, there are plenty of experienced, respectable environmental groups out there (i.e, they have a different take on things but they don’t make up their own facts!) that most electric utilities perhaps will not “like” but certainly will share in respecting. Maybe Jim should solicit the backing of one of these and test the waters. He (and you) might be surprised to find that Dominion will tolerate respectable dissent.

    • It’s not “formerly” VEPCO. You buy your electricity from the Virginia Electric and Power Company. Read any SCC filing. Dominion Resources is a holding company and I think Dominion Power is a registered trademark but the incorporated legal entity name is still VEPCO.

  5. Would there be any difference between a sponsor they don’t like and comments they don’t like – perhaps even coming from the groups they’d not share BR sponsors with?

    I know the “Power to the People” folks do comment here at times and it would be not a good thing for Dominion to be complaining to Jim about comments they don’t like or believe or incorrect or wrong on facts.

    At that point, I would expect Dominion to weigh in themselves and make their points. I’m not sure it would be a good thing for Jim to be moderating comments based on feedback from Dominion. I’d rather see Dominion respond.

  6. Of course it takes money to run anything, including a blog, and independent journalism CAN exist despite advertisers’ objections and misbehavior. The biggest problem is that “DOM VP” is used to having its way, bending the behavior of such Virginia legislative stalwarts as Thos. Norment and F. Wagner to its narrow views. Much about the old Washington Post and how it withstood most of the political prejudices in DC, as it strove for independence is a matter of public record now. The question is, Does Bacon aspire to that level of independence and watchdoggedness, or will he settle for picking his targets more carefully and less bothersome to zealots and purists ? Shall we say there’s an elephant in the room? Or that Bacons Rebellion is “a little pregnant” ? Only time will tell. The independence is both needed and rare in popular journalism, receding everyday.

  7. Is it significant that there are so few comments about BR’s new sponsors? Lack of responses may be interpreted in various ways. To me it suggests apathy, like voters’ apathy, that afflicts our country, driving us further down the path of narrow, oligarchical governance. There are no benefits to putting control of anything in the hands of the few, while denying the inclusion of the many. Current example: Sweet Briar College ‘s debacle, attributable to dominance of a few big-buck board members over shared governance, as both laws and good practice affirm to be preferred and most effective. I have but one credo: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all are created equal …,” and I trust we all can fill in the rest of the quotation. If not, we’re worse off than I thought. Our American principles are so idealistic, so workable, so true – that’s why we too often abuse them. Unbiased journalism is, as Jefferson hoped, one of the few antidotes to that misuse. As James Kilpatrick once wrote, “Who will watch the watchdogs?” That was his best; the rest is best forgotten.

  8. The FCC has required radio and television to identify any sponsorship of any programming for years and years. I suggest Jim keep posting the identity of any and all sponsors on the main page. We are all intelligent people and we can figure out, over time, whether sponsorship is causing punches to be pulled.

  9. Blue Virginia dropped you off their blog link list when you announced this sponsorship. This may or may not make you weep salty tears into your beer, though probably a few people (like me) did find you through them. I can find my way here on my own, now, though.

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