Sunday, February 3, 2019


Revelations that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apparently posed in blackface for a 1984 medical school yearbook photo has sparked calls for his resignation from three daily newspapers there, including the state's largest.

But most of the Virginia dailies, at least nine, have yet to urge his ouster following Friday's first reports that the photo depicting him in the racist image appeared in the Eastern Virginia Medical School annual.

Those that have called for him to step down include the largest circulation paper, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, as well as the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and The Daily Press in Newport News.

"He is by all accounts a decent and considerate man," The Times-Dispatch editorial board wrote Friday. "And yet, his poor judgment has undermined his standing with Virginians in ways that we believe will permanently impair his ability to act as an effective governor. He should resign and return to his profession as a physician, with the thanks of those he has served as a state senator, lieutenant governor, and for the past year, governor."

The co-owned Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press in a joint editorial stated: "Unfortunately, the bonds of confidence have been broken and they cannot be repaired. This Editorial Board endorsed Northam as governor to be the steady hand on the tiller, a man in whom we could trust. But we cannot anymore. Ralph Northam must resign."

But others that stopped short or have yet to editorialize on the story include The Roanoke Times, The Bristol Herald Courier, the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, The Culpeper Star Exponent, The Danville Register & Bee, The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, The News & Advance of Lynchburg, The News Leader of Staunton, and the News Virginian of Waynesboro.

Some, like the Roanoke Times, came close, opining with the question: Can Northam still represent Virginia? Then punting when it came to their view: "Realistically, can Northam now represent Virginia in the way that people expect of their governor? Northam is a genial man who is well-liked on a personal level even by many Republicans. His low-key tone has been a welcome tonic to the poisonous politics we see on a national level. He has understood the way the economy is changing in deeper ways than many politicians. Sadly, none of that really matters now."

The News Leader called it "an unforgivable stain," but would not go all the way to urge a resignation.  

The Daily Progress has yet to weigh in on Northam and the blackface. But it might have won the bad timing award for an editorial it ran a day earlier, on Jan. 31, that advocated for a change to state law that would lift the current one-term limit on governors.

As for Northam, he hasn't helped himself much during this debacle. He first admitted that the blackface photo was his, then later claimed it was not and that he had not seen that yearbook page. But he did admit that he had worn blackface at another time, but said it was part of a costume depicting Michael Jackson.

It is this kind of divisive and offensive issue that allows those who oversee news operations to use their power and influence to call for change or improvements. If no more newspapers choose to do so, it will be interesting to see the impact.

One of the Virginia daily papers I do not expect to come around is the Star Exponent. During my research I came across an editorial that paper ran on Jan. 22 titled, "In Praise of Richard Nixon."


The Washington Post will make some history of its own today with its first Super Bowl ad, which reportedly features Tom Hanks, who played legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee in 2017's The Post film about the Pentagon Papers.

The Post revealed that: "The 60-second spot, narrated by actor Tom Hanks, will air in the fourth quarter of the game, shortly before the two-minute warning. The commercial, produced in partnership with Mark Woollen and Associates, shows scenes from major news events from World War II through the present day. Hanks’s narration describes the role of journalists as eyewitnesses and gatherers of fact, as well as the profession’s larger importance to society. The commercial ends with The Washington Post’s logo and its slogan, 'Democracy Dies in Darkness.'"

That slogan was added to the Post just weeks after President Donald Trump took office in early 2017.

The commercial, which has not been released ahead of time, also highlights the dangers reporters face around the world, including those who worked at the Post.

Jamal Khashoggi
"The advertisement will briefly show several slain and missing journalists affiliated with The Washington Post and other publications," the paper reported. "They include freelance reporter Austin Tice, who has been missing in Syria for more than six years. Tice is believed to be alive, though his whereabouts are unknown. Another freelance journalist, columnist Jamal Khashoggi, was killed at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

"The CIA determined, with high confidence, that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. A third journalist shown in the commercial, Marie Colvin, was an American war correspondent for the Sunday Times in London. She was killed in 2012 by Syrian forces while reporting in Homs, Syria. Colvin is the subject of the 2018 film 'A Private War,' and on Wednesday, a U.S. court ordered the Syrian government to pay $302 million in damages to Colvin’s family."

The ad comes just weeks after the Committee to Protect Journalists revealed that 54 journalists had been killed in the line of duty in 2018, the most in three years -- with three murdered so far this year. Since 1992, more than 1,300 have died on the job, according to CPJ. 

This is not the first time the Post took to video advertising to promote the need for a free and unfettered press. A year ago an ad pointing out the need for journalists to keep an eye on Trump was launched. See that below:

The New York Times in 2017 launched ads of its own that promoted basic journalism in the face of anti-press efforts, including one that took aim at the NFL concussion issue and ran just days before the big game. See below.

But it's not enough for major newspapers to remind news consumers of the challenges they face from anti-press attackers like Trump, and the dangers of doing the job. Other news outlets, especially broadcast and cable networks themselves, should use their airwaves for such public service announcements.

The News Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America, recently produced a strong of video ads dubbed the "Support Real News" campaign. These ads push the point home about the need for a vibrant press. See one below:

But have you seen them on your local TV or cable station? Individual outlets need to step up and put the word out before the opposition to real journalism snuffs it out for good. 

Hopefully this starts a trend of news outlets pointing out to citizens and voters the need for a strong press, the need to support it financially, and the dangers that continue to grow for those who practice the profession.

Friday, February 1, 2019

PROPUBLICA GOING STRONG 10 YEARS IN, AND THE MONEY KEEPS COMING has ended its 10th year with an annual report out this week and a clear record of great non-profit journalism, as well as what appears to be a steady stream of financial contributions.

The non-profit outlet that launched in 2008 with $10 million in donations and a staff of 20 now boasts 120 people and revenue that exceeded $30 million last year, according to the report. It also claims more than $25 million in reserves.

See the financials below and the entire report HERE.

I remember when the non-profit news organization, which has already garnered a handful of Pulitzer Prizes, launched back in 2008. A decade-plus later, the unusual idea of an investigative news outlet that provides its news at no charge, with no advertising, and pure donations to exist seems to have been proven a success.

The annual report, titled "Ten Year's On,"states: "Our journalism spurred a host of real-world changes, including the reversal of President Donald Trump's migrant family separation plan; the first federal legislation in decades addressing maternal deaths; the end of a Facebook practice that facilitated discrimination; and the resignation of leaders from a troubled children's charity operating in Liberia."

Dozens of other non-profit news outlets have also come into the fold in recent years with great investigations from California to New Orleans. Let's hope this will spark even more profitless efforts at a time when the news industry needs strong, in-depth reporting that focuses on the news and not the need for higher profits.