The Fall of the Regional Press in Virginia – Virginian-Pilot Edition

By James C. Sherlock

One of my morning newspapers is The Virginian-Pilot.   It used to be an outstanding regional newspaper. Shrunken to a sliver of its former self, it is no longer.

Small size need not compromise integrity, but it has in this case.

The Pilot unapologetically accepts, apparently without review, wire service reports on national news based entirely on the alignment of the stories with the political narrative the Pilot supports.   With no concern for accuracy.

Readers look in vain for stories unhelpful to the left.

A front page story by Lisa Mascaro of the Associated Press was headlined today:

Defense of Roe falls to filibuster.  GOP senators block vote on bill to secure access to abortion

Regardless of one’s personal view on the subject of abortion, the headline and the story below it were false.

There was no filibuster.  The Senate bill submitted by Sen. Blumenthal failed 49-51 in an up-down vote on the bill yesterday. Sen. Manchin, D-West Virginia was the deciding vote.  Oxford Dictionary definition of filibuster:

…an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures.

There was no obstruction of progress when a majority voted against a bill, as happened here.  The majority on any particular vote is not like the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to proceed.  But a filibuster was not required on this bill.

The majority leader knew it would fail to gain a majority when he put it to a vote.

The bill voted on did not “defend Roe”.  The Blumenthal bill expands Roe/Casey to proscribe any state limits on abortion and specifically supersedes the application to abortion rights of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Defending Roe/Casey?  Manchin opposed the proposed bill.  He considered it too broad because it went far beyond Roe/Casey.

Two Republican senators have proposed a bill that he supports.  The alternative bill is written specifically to codify the essential holdings of Roe and Casey and their application in subsequent federal court decisions.

The rest of the Democrats in the Senate do not believe Roe/Casey went far enough.  They are welcome to that opinion and to vote that way.  There is no reason not to write that.  Senate Democrats themselves would proudly agree.

The details.

 This is not just a headline writer error.  It is an organized effort to mislead.  The first sentence of the Pilot/Associated Press story:

The Senate fell far short Wednesday in a rushed effort toward enshrining Roe v. Wade abortion access as federal law, blocked by a Republican filibuster in a blunt display of the nation’s partisan divide over the landmark court decision and the limits of legislative action.

Also untrue.  Again, there was no filibuster.

Second, the federal bill offered in the Senate yesterday, the Blumenthal bill, quite specifically and at great length (13 pages) blocks state laws on abortion.  Roe/Casey very demonstrably did not do that, well before a final decision on the case currently under review by the Supreme Court.

Unlike the Blumenthal bill but affirming Roe/Casey, the bill sponsored by Senators Collins and Murkowski does not proscribe state laws.  One summary of Roe/Casey:

In Casey, the court upheld Roe’s holding that a woman has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy up to the point of fetal viability and that states could restrict abortion after that point, subject to exceptions to protect the life or health of the pregnant woman. But the Casey court concluded that Roe too severely limited state regulation prior to fetal viability and held that states could impose restrictions on abortion throughout pregnancy to protect potential life as well as to protect maternal health – including during the first trimester.

The Collins/Murkowski bill, mentioned but not defined in paragraph 21 of the AP story, captures Roe/Casey in a nutshell:

(a) IN GENERAL.—A State—
(1) may not impose an undue burden on the ability of a woman to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability;
(2) may restrict the ability of a woman to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability, unless such a termination is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman; and
(3) may enact regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
(b) CLARIFICATION.—For purposes of this Act, unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy impose an undue burden.

Telling the truth about both Senate bills would have been easy and would not have disturbed the debate, just informed it.  There are lots of people who will oppose both bills.  But everyone is entitled to know what is in them.

For an example on informing the debate, see above.  It includes links to both bills if readers wish a side-by-side comparison.

What to do?  

So to readers who can hold two thoughts – one on their views on either side of the abortion debate and the other on Americans’ need for accurate reporting to inform our opinions – the Pilot-Associated Press story is a front page lie.

Each should print corrections in the same space where the story was run.

But they won’t.  Not when truth doesn’t fit the narrative.

Updated May 12 at 6:04 PM.

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19 responses to “The Fall of the Regional Press in Virginia – Virginian-Pilot Edition”

  1. Spot on James but this has been a long, slow slog to journalistic oblivion. I first noticed it 20 years ago in Charlottesville as the Daily Progress had fewer and fewer bylines replaced with newswire stories. We finally just stopped subscribing. The same can be said for news outlets in general.
    I have found an oasis in the reporting desert with the Charleston, SC Post and Courier. As subscriptions decline, they have set up a donation page to keep their investigative reporting alive. They do a great job of weeding out corruption in South Carolina (say it ain’t so). Here’s their donation site:
    Although annoying, the clickbait ads on BR at least pay the bills…

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Alas, cave art is passé too.

  3. vicnicholls Avatar

    Capt. its been that way forever. I’ve got an example (happened to me) where a VB Democratic party officer wrote a hit piece on a group that I know of, pushing to get porn out of schools, etc. I am not a member of the group, but know folks in it. I’m also not a member of the local GOP or any of its groups here where I live. I had to clarify that before the VP person who called me, would print a rebuttal. They said they wouldn’t do any back and forth. So in other words: extension of the Democratic party, its Prada paper.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    We were doing well.

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    The vote was indeed about a filibuster. As shown on the official Senate record, the vote was on a motion of cloture, which is a motion to proceed to debate on the bill. Without invoking cloture, the Senate could not proceed to officially take up the bill, debate it, and vote on it. To invoke cloture and end the filibuster takes 60 votes.

    In effect, the vote was on the bill itself. The vote showed there was not a majority willing to invoke cloture, much less the 60 votes needed.

    In summary, the news story was technically correct.

    1. tadmd Avatar

      But come on, purposely misleading and divisive, right? This is not what normal people call news.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Nope. Seems like a straight forward story of what occurred. Would you rather that the media not have reported the results of the vote?

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Or better still, just make it up and say, “Just askin’.”

      2. VaNavVet Avatar

        Seems to be a great deal of confirmation bias going on here. Twisting of the story to fit the readers’ narrative.

        1. tadmd Avatar

          Open to that. Will re-read. Thanks!

    2. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

      It was all show. Both sides are more interested in posturing than in solving these issues. Schumer could have had Collins’ vote with the addition of a conscience clause. But posturing is more important than coming up with some level of consensus. And the MSM is a full partner in this crap because journalism is no longer a profession. We no longer get anything more than a fool’s own opinion disguised as news.

      I’m generally pro-choice but even Blackmun wrote in Roe that a woman’s right to choose an abortion is not unlimited. We need Congress to find some fricking common ground. They don’t even try.

      Griswold, the 1965 SCOTUS decision on contraception, was based on Justice Douglas’ “analysis” concluded that the Bill of Rights created “emanations” of protection that created “penumbras” within which rights could still be covered even if not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. The first time I read the case as a 1L, I knew it was a piece of crap — legal science fiction. And in the almost 60 years since Griswold, instead of Congress or the states developing sensible laws that provide both appropriate protections and restrictions. Do we really want live birth abortions any more than we want a blanket prohibition on abortions?

      No other nation “protects” rights to abortion or same-sex marriage (but not plural marriage) by emanations and penumbras. They pass laws.

      And the trash that presents itself as the MSM is part of the problem.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        The issue has been solved. Now they’re preparing to live with it.

      2. James McCarthy Avatar
        James McCarthy

        Marbury v Madison (1803) was plucked from Constitutional ether since there is no textural language to support judicial review. That is apparently similar crap that is expected to be believed. When this majority of textualists or originalists overturns Marbury as their ideology requires what will that mean? Since Griswold (which made sense to me) in light of the architecture of the Bill of Rights, states and Congress have passed many laws relative to privacy. SCOTUS found interracial marriage subject to privacy protection in Loving v Virginia.

        Reading literally, slavery was not abolished by the post-Civil War amendments which stated only that slavery “shall not exist.” If Griswold was science fiction, Heller by Scalia was also invented history to justify a right which is not explicitly in the text of the Constitution no matter how it is read. T Jefferson wrote that the right to bear arms existed unfettered only to an individual on his own property.

    3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Not even “technically” correct.

      The headline and the story were designed to mislead. And the “defense of Roe” claim for the Blumenthal bill that the Senate voted on is a straight out lie.

      That claim is appropriate for the Collins/Murkowski bill that the majority leader has refused bring to the floor.

      If the Blumenthal bill had been simply a defense of Roe/Casey like Collins/Murkowski, the 49 Democrats would have voted nay and Manchin would have been a yea. Manchin said exactly that.

      The rest of the Democrats in the Senate want to go much farther than Roe/Casey. That is exactly what we just witnessed.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Capt. Jim, Dick is right. The story is correct. BTW, The Associated Press has been around since 1846 and pools reporting. Do you have any idea how much it costs to staff a post in Washington?. Take Moscow, where I was bureau chief for Business Week. until it eventually went down, the cost of a satellite link for communications was $72,000 a year.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Oxford Dictionary definition of filibuster:

      “an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures”

      There was no obstruction of progress when a majority voted against a bill, as here. The majority on any particular vote does not like the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to proceed. But a filibuster was not required on this bill.

    2. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

      Schumer could have had both Murkowski’s and Collins’ votes had he accepted a conscience clause or allowed their bill to come to the floor for a vote. However, those facts are not consistent with the office MSM narrative.

      Journalism may well have been a profession with standards when you were younger, but it is no longer.

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    Meanwhile, the protests at the homes of US Supreme Court justices in Virginia and Maryland are apparently illegal, violating both federal and state law. But will the Biden Administration or the Soros – funded Commonwealth’s Attorney in Fairfax County enforce the law? Don’t hold your breath.

    Younkin and Larry Hogan sent a letter to Merrick Garland asking the feds to take action …

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