The Richmond Free Press and the Contrast with Other Progressive Outlets

by James C. Sherlock

I celebrate the Richmond Free Press (RFP).

I discovered that newspaper in a terrific article in Richmond Magazine in 2015.

RFP calls itself a progressive newspaper. And it is. Black progressive.

I find it sometimes, but not always, mirrors the views of the White progressives who dominate the national press.

RFP staff reporters present the news far more straightforwardly than many progressive news outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, The Washington Post and others here, and I find it far more contemplative and locally focused in its editorials.

It is unlike its progressive competitors in many other informative ways.

We will look at a few of them.

Faith.  The RFP has a Faith section. It treats Black religious leaders and their congregations with respect.

The Washington Post has a Lifestyle section. No faith or religion subsection.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch (RTD) also has a Lifestyle section. Its Faith and Values subsection is filled with headlines like

  • What is a fatwa?
  • Seven years of Sex Abuse
  • How a Mormon church ‘help line’ hid child sex abuse
  • What does it mean to be a ‘person’? Different cultures have different answers
  • Sacred hares, banished winter witches and pagan worship — the roots of Easter Bunny traditions are ancient
  • Penance and plague: How the Black Death changed one of Christianity’s most important rituals
  • And, of course, the obligatory abortion section.

The mission of the RTD Faith and Values section clearly is the trashing of Christianity.

Politics. Editorially, the RFP offers unwavering support for Democrats. But their own staff news reports, such as the recent one on the rollout of the Petersburg initiatives, tend to be more fair and balanced than those of the national press.

Business. In the city that was home to the iconic Maggie Walker, the first African-American woman to charter a bank, a publisher and a leader who promoted humanitarian causes and encouraged individual self-help and integrity, the RFP champions black businesses both editorially and in its news reports.

Contrast that with the approach of most of the progressive press to American business.

Education. In a very informative and prescient article written on November 18 of 2021, reporter Ronald Carrington gave a cautious and balanced view of the prospects for Richmond Public Schools recovering from the longest-in-the-state (and matching the longest-in-the-nation) COVID shutdown.

His caution was justified.

Abortion and climate change. On the flip side of that coin, the RFP supports unrestricted abortion and the progressive climate change agenda.

The CDC has reported that in 2019,

  • Non-Hispanic White women had the lowest abortion rate (6.6 abortions per 1,000 women) and ratio (117 abortions per 1,000 live births); and
  • Non-Hispanic Black women had the highest abortion rate (23.8 abortions per 1,000 women) and ratio (386 abortions per 1,000 live births).

One conservative view of that data is that the abortion industry in the United States targets Black girls and women.

Many conservatives believe abortion is both a source and artifact of disregard for human life that is reflected in similarly enormous racial disparities in homicide (murder and manslaughter) crime statistics involving young Black men.

The RFP supports abortion anyway, clearly considering it both necessary and right. I respectfully disagree.

Similarly, climate change. The RFP is full-throated in its editorial support of the progressive climate change agenda. An apolitical observer would assess that poor people are particularly threatened by the vast new costs and unreliability of electricity from that agenda.

Then there are the $65,000+ electric vehicles. And the threats to the entire fossil-fuel-based American economy. But the RFP is all in.

Bottom line:  The Richmond Free Press is irreplaceable.

I don’t often agree with the editorial position of that paper, but I always learn from it. They are under no obligation to agree with me.

And the staff reporting is first-rate.