Local concerns about the quality of reporting by our local paper The Central Virginian start with their op-ed page overflowing with large political cartoons and notices of how well they are informing their readers, accompanied by syndicated commentary from the farthest right.
Content aggregated onto a single page, carefully choreographed to limit space for local letters, creating an atmosphere where few will even think to ask “So where are the local opinions?”
Concerns which go well beyond what points of view are being represented in their letters to the editor, concerns which extend to decidedly stenographic approach to reporting local news and events, and a style of minimalist journalism which serves to quietly preserve the status quo lest anyone be offended, I mean informed.
It’s a persistent failure to cover local events accompanied by a noticeable slanting of their stories, along with a pattern of treating certain local events like they never even happened.
Like last years Town Hall Meeting with Louisa’s three state representatives, where they sent a reporter to interview people, who took photos, and yet somehow failed to print a single word.
Or last month’s Republican call for candidates at the Louisa Library where there was reporter taking photo’s, and who presumably talked to other people at this meeting not named Commonwealth Attorney Rusty McGuire, while saying absolutely nothing about this event .
In both instances, it appears that their editorial staff made a conscious decision not to cover these local events, opting to print letters to the editor which talked about the very stories they failed to cover.
Actions which raise the question, does printing these letters make up for their failure to cover these stories in the first place, or help contribute to the illusion that they are actively informing their readers?
It’s a form of journalism which effectively transfers any responsibility along with “heat” of public opinion for the content (aka reporting) of those letters.
Speaking of insulated content, the CV’s readers might have noticed the full page ads by Dominion Power appearing on their very last page, ads which they have been running since the beginning of April.
Ad’s that first told us how hard Dominion is working to keep their prices of electricity low and now are telling us how reliable and well regarded they are.
Claims which their management has known for several months are misleading and deceptive but steadfastly refuse to allow any commentary on, because apparently “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Even their “Detours and Things to Do” section of free public announcements about local community events now limits their reader’s access to information, because their “new policies” restrict what can be put in these announcements.
Such as telling certain groups that they couldn’t list their guest speaker or topic, just the time, date and places for their recent May monthly announcement. Whether this represents another wrinkle in the CV’s under informing their reader’s remains to be seen.
One thing is clear; there are two standards when it comes to their treatment of public announcements; such as the April 30th Chamber of Commerce Meeting and National Day of Prayer, where both announcements clearly listed speakers, topic, along with pertinent details.
Raising the question of why were these notices treated so differently?
And one of the first things that comes to mind is that the CV is favoring certain kinds of messages and content over others. Whether this arises from unconscious assumptions or uncritically accepting whatever lines they are fed by local officials, or even deliberate actions on their part is at this point a distinction without a difference.
Perhaps their editor’s was unaware that by jumping on the “Christianity is under fire bandwagon” with her editorial supporting the May 7th National Day of Prayer that the CV was overlooking a parallel “invitation only” meeting at the Louisa Arts Center which took place just before the noon prayer on the Courthouse lawn.
A gathering where guest lecturer, Rena Lindevaldsen from Liberty University’s Center for Law and Policy gave a presentation titled “America-the Land of Religious Hostility” to a pre-selected group of local pastors and ministry leaders.
Where she reportedly claimed that the reasons for maintaining separation between church and state in our civic and political affairs were no longer relevant, and were not important enough for us to be very concerned.
It should also be noted that the parent National Day of Prayer organization removed all information about who guest speakers at their events around the country were and what they would be talking about (including this one) less than 24 hours later.
Their Eastern regional coordinator, Nancy Sharman stated that she was “surprised” to learn this information was no longer available saying that perhaps it was because their site had been “hacked” numerous times over the past week.
While the local coordinator, Terri Detrick would confirm who spoke and what the subject of the lecture was, she adamantly declined to confirm any other details such as how many people attended this event, and what if any logistical and financial support her group received from the national organization.
While it’s certainly not unusual for notices to be removed after events are over, it’s worth noting that on the National Day of Prayer organizations drop down menu there is an events survey link which presumably local coordinators like Ms. Detrick are asked to fill out. And that one of the final question on this “survey” dutifully asks if the local coordinators purchased any National Day of Prayer merchandise, ahem resources from their web store.
Actions which bring up more questions; is this nationwide “event” was ever about embracing religion, or is it nothing more than monetized propaganda?
With some groups claiming that this organization goes well beyond the explicit promotion of Christian religion at the expense of other religions, and is another vehicle for promoting right wing ideology.
The 2010 mission statement of the NDP Task Force states that their goal is to mobilize the Christian Community “to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: government, military, media, business, education, church and family.”
Claims which are certainly reinforced by recent legislative actions in conservative states like Indiana’s infamous religious liberty law, or more recently this little gem from Louisiana.
It should also be noted that the CV failed to report that both the Town of Louisa and the Louisa Board of Supervisors issued public proclamations supporting this event. Overlooking the question; do our local public officials seriously believe that the role of government is to sanction events which favor one religion over others?
Seemingly oblivious to the perception that they might be improperly using their powers of state, a uniquely Southern form of self inflicted injury.
Much like the CV’s publishing several blurbs about multiple Chamber of Commerce meetings, yet failing to mention a single word about presentations by Rusty McGuire and Major Lowe at their April meeting.
Perhaps they did not follow their own precedent because their editor is a prominent member of this organization, and they don’t particularly care to see the magnitude of Major Lowe’s fearful claims become public knowledge.
Who on one hand pedals fear of dangerous gang activity in the county, and on the other claims the reason Louisa County was such a “safe” place to live was because so many dangerous criminals had been locked up in the regional jail thanks to their get tough on crime approach.
Claims which conveniently overlook the fact that of the five counties using this jail, Louisa’s numbers have risen the fastest and now account for 40% of all inmates housed at this jail. Or that for years County’s cost for housing their prisoners was buried in the profits the jail used to make by housing federal prisoners in this jail.
Now that the jails source of federal profits has dried up, the county no longer has “free housing” and will be facing a economic hit of several millions dollars next year, long after the election is over.
Or perhaps they didn’t want their readers to notice any connection between Donnie Lowe’s outlandish claims and their own “breaking” multi-part Gang Ties series http://www.thecentralvirginian.com/?p=15527
While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, responsible public servants shouldn’t be in the business of trying to pass them off as facts.
Especially unelected officials like Major Lowe who continues to use meetings like these to promote his own job security and his bosses re-election. Since Sheriff Ashland Fortune’s name is the one the ballot, he’s who we should be holding accountable for his lack of oversight for his underlings stealthy propaganda I mean re-election campaign.
While it’s conceivable that both of these stories will be discussed in more detail in future editions of the CV, keep in mind that incomplete notifications, slanted stories, along with non-existent coverage are no longer isolated glitches and bugs; they have become permanent features of their reporting.
Contrary to their over sized proclamations on their op-ed page, it’s not always your government who’s keeping you from being informed; sometimes it’s your local paper. And they will continue promoting their “it’s your right to know” brand convinced that no one is any the wiser.