Virginia Mercury At One: Kicking GOP Butt

Success and quality demand recognition, so congratulations to the folks at Virginia Mercury for one year of e-publication.  It represents the future of journalism, which is nothing short of tragic.

Not that a deep progressive bent (or conservative for that matter) has been unknown in journalism.  Most of the great early publications had political backers, and truly independent reporting has been largely mythical.  Everything old is new again.

I remember years ago learning that the page layout mock-ups marked certain advertising blocks so, for example, no story would be placed about lung cancer on the page selling Marlboros, or the plane crash wouldn’t be reported next to the Piedmont Airlines ad.  But with those ads for all to see, we knew who was paying the bills for the daily output of The Roanoke Times.  We have no idea who is paying the bills and potentially pulling the strings at the new internet periodicals and dailies. 

What is going on with the Virginia Mercury is part of a major trend, with the progressive groups apparently far ahead of conservatives.  This account published by Capitol Research tracks the history and growth of the movement, a debatable account but impossible to just dismiss.  If those who view any tax preferences as a “subsidy” are correct, then the 501(c) status enjoyed by Virginia Mercury and its financial supporters means we are all paying the bill for their messaging.

And it’s well done, often solid reporting by people who in an earlier time would be (and were) part of a commercial daily paper’s staff.  But mixed in is plenty of commentary, and even in the “news” content the very choice of stories shows a clear pattern.  Today’s home page includes an environmental commentary column by one of my fellow Dominion critics placed at the top of the daily list.

Her column will get far more readership than anything I wrote will, for one simple reason – VPAP.  VPAP’s daily linked summary of Virginia coverage drives many readers to Virginia Mercury.

The way that Virginia Mercury’s news content is accepted and re-distributed by the Virginia Public Access Project, but news content from Bacon’s Rebellion remains blackballed, is not just a sore point but a lingering sign of partisan bias.  My friends at VPAP are tired of hearing it.  Well, they keep doing it, they will keep hearing it.  Bacon’s Rebellion with its long comment strings is far more balanced than Virginia Mercury (if poorly resourced.)  Our reporting is often solid, too (as evidenced by the many times our stories get re-done.  It happened again today.)

A year in, the success of Virginia Mercury has failed to inspire a similar effort with a more conservative bent covering Virginia.  The conservative blogs are dominated by reprinted party press releases, personal rants and the ancient and abiding internal feud between the two wings of the conservative movement, those who want ideological purity and those who like to actually win now and then.  Reporting is not their goal.  There is an e-journal, The Center Square, with one reporter writing occasional Virginia stories, but so far it hasn’t shown much enterprise.  I haven’t seen VPAP pick up its content, either.

So only one team is really on the field, and since Virginia Mercury is not bat-crap crazy and filled with partisan hate like Blue Virginia tends to be on occasion, it probably continues to grow in readership and influence.  Which is the American way.  As the old joke goes, after the other team runs five unopposed plays and scores, the GOP might finally enter this new game.

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22 responses to “Virginia Mercury At One: Kicking GOP Butt

  1. I hadn’t really noticed what Jim was posting while I worked on this. So there he is, arguing with something Ivy Main wrote at Virginia Mercury, but also linking to her story so anybody can read it and decide for themselves. Do you really expect the Left to ever be that fair? But who gets blackballed by VPAP?

  2. Good observations, especially about VPAP.

    I write columns every other week at The Princess Anne Independent News which circulates a print version to Southern Virginia Beach, the municipal center, and Knotts Island, N.C. The publisher is sometimes slow to post my column online – not an issue with me. It’s because he’s busy. But I post the same copy on my site and it’s never picked up by VPAP. I once asked the executive director why this is the case and he stated if he ran my columns, he’d have to run every letter to the editor.

    Of course, what happens when my column – same copy – is shared with Roanoke Times? VPAP runs the op-ed.

    The VPAP threshold is just one I don’t understand.

  3. I strongly agree with Steve’s analysis. I also believe it’s a free country: There’s nothing stopping conservatives and libertarians from raising the money to ramp up our own publication.

    I have given the matter considerable thought, but as long as I am committed to my current book project, I don’t have the bandwidth to engage in fund raising and create content for Bacon’s Rebellion. I could not in good conscience ask anyone for their money unless I was willing to give the effort 100%. Maybe I’ll be in a position to do something in 2020.

    In the meantime, we can continue to grow Bacon’s Rebellion organically. Traffic for the first six months of 2019 was 76% higher than the previous year. I don’t know if we can keep up that pace, but clearly someone is reading the blog.

  4. Aside from time constraints, one other thing is holding me back from pursuing outside funding: a fundamental question of identity.

    On the one hand, I worry about the demise of a strong conservative and/or libertarian voice in Virginia media. The potential exists to position Bacon’s Rebellion to fill that void and appeal to that vast swath of the population for whom no one is doing news gathering.

    On the other, I am committed to maintaining Bacon’s Rebellion as a forum for civil dialogue that encompasses a diversity of views. A danger as great as a media landscape that contains no strong conservative/libertarian voices is a media landscape where the only strong voices are highly partisan and ideological.

    In theory, it might be possible to thread the needle by positioning B.R. as a primarily conservative/libertarian voice but one that is also committed to civil and respectful dialogue with those who entertain other perspectives. However, I don’t know if anyone would be interested in backing such a publication financially.

    Until I get the core-identity issue sorted out, it’s impossible to know whom to approach for funding and what to pitch them. I would welcome feedback from readers.

  5. I feel the same tension, as I’m happy this blog is open to posts and certainly no shortage of responses all across the spectrum. I’d be happier if our straight news got picked up by VPAP. Just came from the Capitol (but the particular meeting didn’t produce much….) It’s the news coverage where we’re being shortchanged. I do not expect VPAP to run the commentary on a regular basis. I’m just sick of their excuse that the news on VA Mercury is okay because of some imaginary Chinese wall. That’s just bogus.

  6. Great comments, both. Happy to share any of my lessons learned off-line from my former foray into attempting partisan media, if interested. We need an honest conservative media source. And, B.R.’s readership is trending up, if I’m any indication, because many folks like me are turning to you to fill that void.

  7. In terms of “funding” – how is Virginia Mercury “funded” and is it really true as implied that no such “funding” is “available” on the right?

    Come on guys… in the age of the internet , “getting the Conservative viewpoint out-there” is dead simple.

    There are “Conservatives” blogs and other “publications” out the wazoo – but .. they’re only read by Conservatives… so what are we REALLY talking about – that Conservatives cannot get their “word” out or that they can but they can’t attract anyone to their left to read it?

    Finally, ya’ll keep getting confused between what an “environmentalist” is or is not – and a solid majority of people who DO care about the environment AND are willing to support changes. Those folks are not “extreme environmentalists” guys – many of them are ordinary folks who do care about the impacts we have on the environment. Continuing to label any/all of these folks as “extreme” environmentalists just is not reality except to those who cannot accept the fact that many people want cleaner air, less waste and less harm to the environment – even some “Conservatives”. Gotta believe there is some sort of passive-aggressive stuff here.

  8. I’m certainly an environmentalist, Larry. AOC and her Green New Deal is certainly an extremist. Ivy is between us somewhere. But I digress…

    You are correct that the opportunity for counter-point is there and that’s my point, the conservative side seems incapable of understanding that they need to get beyond the echo chamber and circular firing squad and package a message that is readable, rational, attractive and fact based. They sometimes need to persuade, not harangue. I’m not being facetious in my praise of Virginia Mercury, I really think they do that extremely well. I thought four years ago that Trump’s election would destroy the Republican Party and he’s right on schedule. The level of alienation and disaffection among many old-line Republicans is climbing rapidly and nobody seems interested in trying to build a boat in the storm.

  9. Steve opines: “I thought four years ago that Trump’s election would destroy the Republican Party and he’s right on schedule.”

    Is that a bad thing? What does destroy mean? What does AOC, Pelosi and Trump have to do with it? Is there an alternative(s)?

    I thought less than 2 years ago that AOC’s election would finish off the destruction of the Democratic Party and she’s right on schedule?

    Is that a bad thing? What does destroy mean? What does Trump, Pelosi, and AOC have to do with it? Is there an alternative(s)?

    • Another words: Steve opines: “The conservative side seems incapable of understanding that they need to get beyond the echo chamber and circular firing squad and package a message that is readable, rational, attractive and fact based.”

      Was this central problem of the conservatives before Trump? Was it not the primary reason for the rise of Trump, and obviously so?

  10. Pelosi is their past, perhaps AOC their future. I must admit that the Democratic hard pull to the left was not the reaction I expected. The center remains wide open and perhaps somebody will come along to claim it. Yes, a Trump vs. Warren/Sanders/Harris race will be even more interesting contest than 2016.

    As previously noted the RTD is reprinting its front pages from 75 years ago and along with the war news, another saga is Roosevelt and his VP choice, with the party deeply divided over that earlier version of a true socialist, Henry Wallace. Everything old is new again….Can’t remember when Truman emerges, but must be soon.

    • Trump’s successor will be telling. For now the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives is dead, a zombie. When Steny Hoyer has had enough, it’s dead. Indeed, I had before felt that Steny had died first. I was wrong. God Bless Steny, he’s risen from the dead.

  11. I am of two minds about this post. I agree that it is good that Virginia Mercury is around. It is likely the future of journalism given the growing confines of the MSM. The Richmond Times Dispatch still does some good work but its local news only front page format is daunting. One morning they ran the opening of a Ukrop’s prepared foods store selling fried chicken in the West End as their lead item. I am not afraid of the non-profit Hopewell Fund bankrolling the Mercury. That is probably more hands off than taking money from Dominion Energy which has a very clear agenda, protests about independence not withstanding. I wonder why Steve tries so hard to place environmental columnist Ivy Main in some kind of bias spectrum. I say, so what? She’s clearly identified and is very expert on many things. What’s the difference with BR taking its story cues from the Thomas Jefferson Institute of Public Policy where a bunch of ex-flaks and lobbyists push their version of free market economics?
    I also am skeptical of pretending that the state’s newspapers in yesteryears were bastions of objectivity and fairness. I don’t know how things were at the Roanoke Times where Steve and Jim worked. But I was on the staffs of the Pilot and RTD in the 70s and 80s. The Pilot was torn by internal strife but did encourage tough stories. At the RTD it is ok to critical critically of government but not so about private business. I once pitched a series on Philip Morris. Guess what happened? And when another reporter and I found significant malfeasance at WCVE, the public tv station, our story was significantly toned down even though we had the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting saying what was going on was absolutely wrong. So much for the good old days!
    I do agree that it is ridiculous for VPAP to snub BR but really, who cares? Who made VPAP, whose board is made up of corporate bigshots, the curator of respectable journalism?

  12. I too think that Virginia Mercury often does good work, far better on average than Washington Post that yet again finds itself in the ditch.

    But remember, at the end of the day, big money ends up burrowing into the side of corrupting government and large corrupting public, quasi public and “non profit” institutions, including news organizations, no matter what the form and mission these entities claim to take. Why? Ever more Power and ever more Money is the holy grail that leads these power / money hungry folks to do what they do. That is their insatiable quest to take control for themselves of as much power and money as they can grab, and get away with.

    Thus, it is no surprise that, as Peter says, “Who made VPAP, whose board is made up of corporate bigshots, the curator of respectable journalism?”

    American Socialism today is the plaything of Crony Capitalists. That is how things work in America today. Hence, nobodies rise overnight in America, loom suddenly, foolish monsters on the crooked wings of Crony Capitalists on the hunt for ever more power, favors, and more money, for themselves, and their crony friends.

    • For an insightful article on this subject by John Zmirak writing for The Stream, that starts as follows:

      “If Everything Is Racist, Nothing Is, Not Even Trump’s Tweets

      John Zmirak
      July 16, 2019

      Conservative critics are right. President Trump squandered a great political moment. On a weekend when Democrats in Congress were calling each other racists, he issued a Tweet that united them. As the Jacobins chased the Girondists with paring knives, Trump bumbled in like the exiled Louis XVIII with a weak landing in Brittany. That brought the revolutionaries together again. It reminded them who they hate.

      So now instead of letting black congressmen trade charges of racism with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s apparently Communist chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, we’re quarreling over … Trump’s Tweets.

      Queens Like Me

      First let me extend the president my sympathies. I too am from Queens. Like him, I have a talent for saying the most outrageous possible thing at the worst possible moment. (Just ask my Southern girlfriend.) Then feeling an absolute imperative not to back down one single millimeter! Lest my enemies take that as a sign of contemptible weakness, a drop of blood in the waves. … Never apologize, never explain! Now hand me that hatchet I keep under the passenger seat. … (Author’s Note: My dad actually had such a hatchet, and brandished it at drivers who cut him off.)

      I think it was something in the water we used to drink. Maybe benzene leaching in from Con Edison.
      The Cosmological Constants Are Racist

      Now I know that the left has decided that everything is racist. Yes, everything about America since 1776, or 1492. Or maybe even earlier, since isn’t it kind of suspicious that Europe got all the best natural resources (as Jared Diamond argued)? Maybe the planet itself is racist. It’s apparently structured to produce global empires run from Europe.

      I know that the left is now arguing on campus that academic objectivity, demands for free speech, and even expectations of punctuality are racist. I’m waiting for the same people to extend that charge to laws of physics. I mean, it seems as if the cosmological constants that emerged at the Big Bang are calibrated precisely to result … in Trump Tower, Chick-fil-A, and a preponderance of Irish-American firemen in New York City. Can that all be the product of chance? Or are we looking at “evidence that demands a verdict” of Intelligent Racist Design?

      Saying No to Newspeak

      But seriously, folks. Let’s insist on some distinctions. And resist the magnetic pull of Newspeak, the totalitarian temptation to …” END OF QUOTE.

      For balance of article please go to:
      https://stream.org/if-everything-is-racist-nothing-is-not-even-trumps-tweets/

  13. Virginia Business carries most all the stuff VPAP does. Point people to Va. Business.

  14. The Dems, as well as the Enviros, as well as the GOP, have their extreme wings and more than a few will point to the extremes as representative of that group. For instance, one could claim that Steve is “in bed” with hard right ideologues, even Trump because he is certainly affiliated with the same GOP that would get rid of the EPA (or replace it with industry hacks) or send all Hispanics back to Mexico and others back to their “home” countries, etc.

    So all I say on this is for those who keep pointing to AOC as the “face” of tye Dems – oh stop it… it’s foolish and just as ignorant as me saying Steve is in bed with the rabid right because he still calls himself a Conservative.

    Same thing with the environment. Yes, some of them are clearly wackos but they do not represent the mainstream of folks who consider themselves “reasonable” environmentalists. No, we’re NOT going back to live in caves but YES we ARE going to burn less coal and even less fossil fuels when it makes sense – fiscally and physically. Just FYI – that’s NOT an “extreme” position.

  15. >>The level of alienation and disaffection among many old-line Republicans is climbing rapidly and nobody seems interested in trying to build a boat in the storm. >>

    Steve,
    Is there something… polling, other research, that supports the statement about old-line Republicans? Anecdotally, I’m not seeing it. What I’m hearing and seeing is “I don’t like him but I will hold my nose and vote for him in 2020.” OK, maybe the two are not mutually exclusive. They could be alienated and still vote for him. If that’s the case, does the supposed alienation matter? Isn’t that where right of center has always been? “Climbing rapidly?” Just not seeing it, seeing more of a resigned acceptance. I’m not seeing it down-ballot either. In fact, I hear more folks talking about Democrats losing the House in 2020. But then, one can easily argue that I don’t get out much.

  16. You did notice what happened to the VA House in 17, the US House in 18, and the signs of trouble again in VA this year? Do you think Taylor breaks 40 next year against Mark not John Warner? Maybe, but I doubt 45. Then there are the fundraising reports. You don’t think any of that is a large swath of Republicans just turned off and tuning out? Man, if the Democrats could find another Blue Dog/DLC Dem like the old Bill Clinton, this one having been faithful to his marriage and showing up regular at Sunday School like Jimmy Peanuts, Trump would be blown away…..

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