What? The General Assembly Is Still Meeting?

Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch photojournalist. Photo credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Jeff Shapiro has a nice column in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch praising the work of the Bob Brown, the long-time news photographer who is retiring, after 42 years at the RTD, at the end of this month. His photographs have captured many moments in the legislature over the years and he is a common sight at the Capitol and around committee meetings.

Beyond the praise for Brown, what struck a chord with me was Shapiro’s description of what news coverage of the legislature used to be like and how the coverage has decreased over time. Today is a good example of that withering. It is Thursday, two days before the legislature is supposed to adjourn. Prominent legislation still needs to finalized. The budget conferees have missed their deadline for reporting a budget bill, meaning that the session may go into overtime or adjourn without an agreed-upon budget.

All of that would have been grist for several stories in the daily newspapers. But, today, not a single article in the RTD, only a couple of pictures by Bob Brown (one of the cute daughters of a House member). The Virginian Pilot, which used to have the best coverage of the legislature, has nothing. Somewhat surprisingly, the Washington Post does have an article about the near certainty of an adjournment without a budget.

The lead story on the front page in today’s RTD print edition dealt with a suit in Giles County about a mentally person not being placed in a mental health bid as quickly as the law requires. That’s important, but it is about a pending case that is a long way from settlement and not that relevant to most folks. Of course, I realize that relatively few people get the print edition (I don’t either, but I check the e-edition.) Most of the on-line stories pertain to sports. After all, we are in the run-up to March Madness.

And that is the state of today’s news coverage of the General Assembly, which makes laws and budget decisions that affect every Virginian.