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.

The other questionable piece by Jim Sherlock goes after the Times regarding how an apparently thoughtless post by a young student was revived on social media and gathered so much force that the University of Tennessee rescinded her acceptance there.

Sherlock sees this as a non-story, but in my view it lays out the dangers of social media attacking in wolf pack style. By the way, the same approach struck at Jim Bacon for an editorial on funding autism that he wrote during his brief run at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Should the woman involved have made the racist post? No. Should the University of Tennessee taken back its acceptance. No.

Capt. Jim complains that the story is months old. So what? The story is a backgrounder and an explainer. Also, in journalism, it is quite common for an issue to be “broken” by one outlet and then reported upon by another. One example is a book on the dangers of opioids by Virginia author Beth Macy. Her book got a lot of attention nationally, but that left out the fact that the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette won a Pulitzer Prize a couple of years before for an exhaustive series about opioids in the Appalachians.

Sherlock also complains that the Times paints Leesburg and Loudoun County where the incident took place as having a leftover Civil War panache.

I have worked there many times and agree that for the most part, the people I dealt with were intelligent and sophisticated. That is with one big exception.

He is Eugene Delgaudio, a far right reactionary who served as a county supervisor from 1999 until 2016. He is the founder of the Public Advocate of the United States, an organization designed to bash gays and immigrants. The lobby has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center. Yet, Loudoun voters kept Delgaudio in office for 17 years.

It is unfortunate that the latest rage at Bacons Rebellion has descended to a constant, selective media bashing exercise in the mode of Donald Trump. Fox News and Newsmax escape criticism. BR also no longer addresses the lingering problems of racism but instead diminishes them in rude terms.

I say this as a professional journalist with nearly five decades of experience. I note that the Post has an editorial today that journalism has become more dangerous this year. Globally more journalists – 274 – have been imprisoned for doing their jobs. Many are in China, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

I personally have known a number who have been killed on the job. They happened to be in the middle of a fire fight or were deliberately targeted for what they were writing. I knew a Forbes correspondent who was ambushed and shot in Moscow for writing about corruption by business oligarchs.

But here at Bacons Rebellion, we are handed the usual propaganda that journalists are evil and can’t be trusted. This and the denial of racism are getting very stale.

Full disclosure: I have written for both the Post and the Times. I know I am in for a stream of nasty, personal attacks by the commenters. Steve Haner and Matt Adams, this is your cue. Jump on in!