The Times-Disgrace Earns Its Nickname

By Steve Haner

Competitors of Richmond’s venerable morning newspaper have long teased it with a derogatory nickname: The Richmond Times-Disgrace. With its decision to stop reprinting 75-year-old front pages for some unidentified offense to some unknown persons, the nickname is fully apt.

“There are terms and phrases that were used in this newspaper in the past – and which appeared in this space as recently as Friday…that are hurtful and, frankly, ignorant,”  reads the announcement today in the space where the reproductions had appeared. “We do not condone the use of those words and phrases to describe people or groups. We will no longer run them, even in our archive sections, without clear context.”  

The pages have tracked the progress of World War II as it was reported to Virginians of the time. The headlines and photos are easy to see, but it takes a sharp eye to read the stories themselves, usually. If you pay attention, as I have, you get a sense of the spacing and correlation of major events and see whether their significance was noted at the time or went unnoticed until later. It is history’s first draft, as others have said.

Until somebody does not want to face it, or even know it happened. I have searched through Friday’s reproduced page over and over and can find only one thing that might have sparked this woke panic.  It was not the five Pacific battlefront stories, and it was not the story on the war’s financial cost  It was not the story out of the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, or a story on the Senate’s debate on price controls.

The “hurtful and frankly ignorant” words must be in the story about a House of Representatives bill to abolish Virginia’s poll tax, at least as far as it limited the vote in federal elections. I had read that story closely Friday, surprised that as early as 1945 the House was passing bills to abolish poll taxes. The story is a straight account of the House’s action on that, and also mentions a related proposal for a Fair Employment Practices Committee.

Some unnamed Southern congressional supporter of the poll tax was quoted calling the bill “a communistic step to wreck the Constitution.” That is the only statement I can find that might have triggered the concern somebody might have their feelings hurt. Is that it? Will anybody in leadership at the newspaper own up to the rationale for its self-censorship of its own archives? Inquiring minds want to know.

Update: Another reader (now a former subscriber, apparently) believes it was the use of the word “Jap” or “Japs” in headlines, something that certainly was common with the war coverage.  So far, no further explanation from the newspaper. 

Inquiring minds also want to know what else will the Political Correctness Editor (or is it a collective?) add or delete in news coverage? I have chided Jim Bacon in this space for his decision to cancel the newspaper coming to his own household, but after this I will think twice about the next invoice. Newspapers should be fearless, independent, and feisty. This one is showing itself to be craven, trapped in the latest leftist fads, and unwilling to irritate anyone.

Someone intimately familiar with its workings, more so than I, reports:

Ill-informed emotion drives everything. We’ve reached a point where institutional journalism is not only structurally incapable of publishing complex truths, it is unwilling to even seek out simple truths. It now engages almost exclusively in the business of manufacturing and maintaining a system of fictions that strokes it vanity, cripples its critics, and boosts its favored groups. It possess only two skills: condemnation and cheerleading.

You can view the poll tax story with whatever lens you wish, but I found it heartening that in 1945 so many in Congress were seeking to end it. The tax was intended to disenfranchise far more than just poor black voters. It was 1964 before the 24th Amendment fully ended it.

Does somebody suffer hurt feelings to learn there was such a thing and that it had defenders among the leaders of the day? Modern ignorant readers would have to know what it was to even understand the story. Is it the claim advocates were exercising communism that offends? The Associated Press probably used that quote because it caused laughs outside of racist circles even in 1945. The poll tax was down to just seven states.

Is the problem the story at the time did not include a “reader alert” such as might appear in such a story today? “As everybody knows, the poll tax is a racist voter suppression tool imposed during the Jim Crow era.” Oh, everybody was so aware in 1945, supporters and opponents. Readers were far more informed then than now. They didn’t need the paper to “interpret” the news.

This was indefensible. This was disgraceful. This calls into question whether any reporting anywhere in your newspaper can be relied upon to be complete and honest. Have fun going back into your online archives trying to add “context” to decades of copy. Just take the archives (filled with potential to offend) offline and continue your fast fade into oblivion.

In journalism as in politics, all fatal wounds are self-inflicted.

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38 responses to “The Times-Disgrace Earns Its Nickname”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    You are right to denounce the Rtd’s removal of the historical pages. Before I dropped RTD out of boredom I did used look for the former front pages and of ww 2 since I had close relatives involved. If they are being dropped it is due to business weakness and not civil rights. I did not find the RTD pages from the 1940s racist. That’s like banning “To Kill a Mocking Bird” due to racism because it used the “n”’ word. Far from it. Ad a college student in the 1970s, I did work at a small southern newspaper and looked through the morgue . Associated Press stories reported such news as “Yesterday, a Negro in Wilmington did the following things: killed his cat,killed his dog and
    killed his wife.”


  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I have not seen my paper today. This action is nonsensical. Somebody (the publisher?) is way oversensitive. Reprinting the front page of an archive does not constitute an endorsement. On the contrary, for something like the poll tax, it could serve as a reminder of how far we have come.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      How far we’ve come? You mean instead of a poll tax, closing polling places, supplying broken machines, restricting early and absentee voting is ” coming far”?

  3. Why does this bring newspeak, thoughtcrime and doublethink to mind?

  4. We don’t know who made the decision to cancel the WWII pages, but it might well have been the RTD’s new super-woke publisher Paul Farrell. Just three days ago, he declared in a message to readers that the newspaper is, in effect, no longer a news organization but an advocacy organization.

    He wrote:

    “Moving forward, we are committed to driving real and lasting change, and will use our platform to listen, educate and advocate across our community. …

    At the RTD, we will use our platform to showcase and address the widening disparity in our community. The inequities for people of color are long-standing, jarring and describable with data — which we will use as a tool to prompt the conversation and scorecard progress. ”

    It’s one thing to say that there is racial disparity in Richmond. Of course there is. It’s another to analyze the causes. Judging from Farrell’s tone, we can be reasonably certain that the RTD will follow a leftist diagnosis of what ails our community and leftist prescriptions to set things straight. The RTD will embrace a leftist narrative, and it will frame the issues and cherry pick the data to support that narrative.

    Readers, it’s time to cancel your RTD subscription, donate to Bacon’s Rebellion, and support a media outlet that encourages diversity … diversity of thought!

  5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    The RTD erasure of history was bound to happen. This newspaper’s destruction of its historical record, its grand historical archives, is another iteration of the ongoing destruction of America, its history, culture, society, diversity, exceptionalism and difference, it’s ruination rampaging around us.

    This is America’s Taliban Moment. For America it is a modern W.B. Yeats’s 1919 Second Coming when “Things Fall Apart:

    Here’s “The Second Coming” in full:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    Last time the nightmare ended with Atomic Bombs, And half the world enslaved by evil.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      Thank you Reed.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    so does this put RTD above or below WaPo?

  7. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    As long as they don’t purge their archives. THAT would be erasing history, and then you’d be well on right to be really, really pissed off. What do you call newspaper archives? They have a word.

    I have never read the RTD, but the Daily Mess had it’s “10, 50, 100 years ago on this day” column. Can’t say I ever did more than look and shrug. It may have had a photo or two, a reproduced headline and a synopsis.

    History isn’t what’s flung at you randomly, that’s trivia. As long as the archives (even films, e.g., GWTW) continue to exist, are searchable, and can be read and cited, history will continue to be there. Rest assured.

    Yeah, it’s titillating to have the “100 years ago” headline, but what value is it except to pique your curiosity to do library work? You can still do that with the archives and the little magnifying glass icon on the website, can you not?

    I mean, can you not still go to RTD’s website, type in a date, and read the entire edition? I know you can with the Virginian Pileup.

    I’ll bet my dollar to your dime, they still have stuff on fiche in the basement and that they can reproduce on newsprint anything in the archives.

  8. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    BTW, if your newspaper isn’t ticking off someone every single day, they ain’t doing their job. Today it’s you. I recall the furor when the Times Herald blanked out Doonesbury one day because it was critical of Saint Ronnie. Then they moved the strip to the editorial pages, “too political” for the comics.

    My favorite comments are when someone goes on a rant about “liberal rags” and yellow journalism and says they will cancel their subscription. Okay, bye.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      “Print the news and raise hell.” “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I accept either as the role of newspapers but if you doing it with half your brain tied behind your back, your right eye closed and seeing everything with your left, that’s propaganda.

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Yes, that would be propaganda. So, printing a story from, oh say, a time when you had your left eye sewn shut is not? Wait, what?

        I’ll bet the RTD could run a reprint of a story from 1960 followed by “Wow! Man we’re we racist.”

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    Indeed, this “history” has not been “erased”

    ” During his years as editorial page editor of the News Leader, up to 1966, Kilpatrick, an Oklahoman, thundered away at court-ordered integration, supported the “massive resistance” program created by Virginia’s white ruling elite, and later revised his views as he was on popular national television shows that have been cleverly lampooned by “Saturday Night Live.”

    This morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch treats the death of Kilpatrick as the passing of a brilliant man or head of state. Using a black-and-white motif to reflect the iconic black-and-white-era photos of Kilpatrick wearing his iconic black-and-white plastic eyeglasses, the TD waxes eloquent about how he was a bright, good guy who mistakenly went down the wrong ideological (at least in today’s view) path and after washing away his sins in the creek waters of modernity and tolerance, emerged as a gentleman farmer in Rappahannock County.

    As the TD’s lead editorial writes: “James J. Kilpatrick’s pen blazed. He wrote with style and power; his prose stoked social and political fires.

    If he had not employed his considerable talents on a malevolent cause, he would have won a Pulitzer Prize.”

    No matter how much the TD wants to reinvent history, the fact is that Kilpatrick was an out-and-out racist who did much to damage this country during a period of critically important and inevitable change.

    He gave this campaign a supposedly intellectual flair by coming up with such arguments as “interposition,” a states’ rights ploy that would let state officials ignore federal laws they don’t like.

    For a modern-day comparison, look what hard-right Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is attempting with health-care reform. He’s saying that Congress doesn’t have the power to change the current, unworkable and unfair system of health care because it tramples on states’ rights.

    As far as Kilpatrick goes, let’s not forget that a late as 1963 he was penning articles for the Saturday Evening Post titled: “The Hell He is Equal.” His unpublished diatribe argued that “the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race.”

    skip down and look at the author….

  10. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Thanks Larry! I had forgotten about that one.

  11. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Yep, Kilpo was a racist and defended systemic racism. Plenty hated him when he lived. What does that have to do with this recent chicken-s&^% decision to stop reprinting WW2 front pages — to CENSOR your own records — because something might offend somebody? The RTD circulation was 240K and is now shrinking to 60K. This in part is why.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Isn’t RTD being accused of “purging history”?

      Seems like they been doing that at least 50 years, No?

      except the folks calling RTD a chic_hit liberal history killing rag didn’t complain about it way back when Kilpatrick was pontificating that eras brand of “conservatism”.

      RTD used to be fairly Conservative as I recall…. they must have taken over by a bunch of young social justice types, eh?

  12. CrazyJD Avatar

    All I remember about Kilpatrick is, “Jane, you ignorant slut”

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Uh, that would be Dan Ackroyd, but come to think of it: Would 60 Minutes put Kilpatrick on the air today? Noooooooo way.

      And Kilpo was the News Leader, Larry. In those days the papers were very separate, and very competitive. Stop tarring the RTD with Kilpatrick.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Need to read closer Steve. I quoted and it said he worked for the NewLeader but when he died RTD wrote that wonderful obit.

        here, I’ll repeat it again for you – note the quotes:

        During his years as editorial page editor of the News Leader, up to 1966, Kilpatrick, an Oklahoman, thundered away at court-ordered integration, supported the “massive resistance” program created by Virginia’s white ruling elite, and later revised his views as he was on popular national television shows that have been cleverly lampooned by “Saturday Night Live.”

        This morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch treats the death of Kilpatrick as the passing of a brilliant man or head of state.

        got it?

        and no.. back in those days the RTD was MUCH MORE Conservative than today…. You do not remember that?

        want me to dreg up some of their articles from the “archives”?

        1. Steve Haner Avatar
          Steve Haner

          OK, I didn’t read that closely. And of course I understand that now in Woke America, an obituary is a time to denigrate and denounce the reactionary who has died, piss on his grave so to speak, like Peter did the other day with A.P. Hill. (Not his racial views or treason, fair game, but his college grades!)

          That’s if you note the Bad Man’s passing at all. Better just to ignore…..I was never a fan of Kilpatrick’s views on race, but he wrote brilliantly and could be very funny, as he showed on 60 Minutes. You condemn the RTD for speaking kindly of the dead?

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Nope. I point out that for quite some time (as I recall) , RTD was a fairly conservative newspaper… and often had a right-leaning perspective in it’s stories and editorials.

            I’m quite sure Byrd and Strom Thurmond, Orval Eugene Faubus and others like them got historically-nice obits.

  13. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Only at Bacons Rebellion can one be chastised for pissing on the grave of a dead a Confederate General. I think I’ll send that one to my friends Up North. It will give them a chuckle!

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Your points were just so trivial! But fine, you’re right, defending dead Confederates on any ground marks me as a candidate for full reeducation….Likewise admiring Kilpatrick’s fiery writing style. In England, I read today, they are vandalizing Churchill statues.

  14. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    So you relate to Churchill, too? Interesting!

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Name a greater anti-fascist. History fascinates me, Peter. Most people are not pure villain or pure saint, but fascinating mixtures. Most reflect the dominant prejudices of their times. A few are beyond redemption. The true bad guys need the closest study. Time to dust off histories of the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, I’m afraid.

      1. MAdams Avatar

        I agree, look at how many folks lionize FDR, how many don’t realize that he was cutting deals with Stalin behind everyone’s back.

      2. Thank you, Steve, for trying to inject some balance and perspective, here. Even Kilpo was a wonderful teacher of the craft of writing. I hear what Larry is saying, “Isn’t RTD being accused of ‘purging history’?” Seems like they been doing that at least 50 years, No?” — but so what? Kilpo’s extreme views at the RNL are a fact, but that is simply not relevant to “purging history.” He didn’t purge history, he gave us his opinion of it; he reinterpreted it. God help us if the only opinions we can express in the media are the politically correct ones.

  15. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Who are you going to channel next?

  16. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for licensure of news agencies. Bias in choice of story is one thing, but fabrication is another…

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      “licensure of news agencies” – damn that pesky constitution anyway. Come the revolution, the bill of rights will be “cancelled”.

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Everyone has a right to free speech, and the press…. but how do they define “press”? Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to define “press”.

        Of course, what does it mean to “pass the bar”? Which branch of government controls “the bar”? Is it taxpayer funded?

        All it takes….

      2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        When it comes to the “press”, no revolution needed. We have the (activist) SCOTUS.

        Of course, we know how Scalia would have defined “press” — the ability to put “free speech” into printed word and lithographs.

        But if the government is prohibited from “exercising”, then what, exactly, is the White House Press Corps and how does one gain access? And then access to the briefing room? Shouldn’t it be open to any on a lottery based on room occupancy only, e.g., a public gallery?

        The word “news” doesn’t occupy two milligrams of Constitutional ink. Anything that remotely defines the rights of the “press” as an organization is derived only by court decisions.

        Gee, what was the decision on Nixon v NYT?

  17. LarrytheG Avatar

    There’s a problem with the right when they claim that WaPo, RTD are lying sacks of leftist doo-doo… because that’s all they got.

    As much as they say they hate these media, they most often cite them in articles. You’d think if they were so bad and biased that they’d never be cited.

    A lot of the right-leaning “media” is not really “news” – it’s an assemblage of the latest “outrages” from liberal institutions and such.

    1. sherlockj Avatar

      I just cancelled my long time online subscriptions to the NYT and the RTD because I find them now unreadable. They are running businesses. That is really the only thing that citizens can do that they care about.

  18. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    “Kilpo was a wonderful teacher of the art of writing?” What kind of BS us that?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      How would you know either way?

  19. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Would you? Doubt it.

  20. LarrytheG Avatar

    Kilpatrick was an example of how someone with a lot of talent could indeed use it in awful ways. I could not admire him.

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