Bloggers Versus Local Press in Bristol Virginia

by Lewis Loflin

According to newspaper circulation reports, the Kingsport Times-News, Johnson City Press and Bristol Herald Courier showed declines in circulation when compared to March 2008 to 2009. The Kingsport Times-News remains the largest daily in the region and the Bristol Herald Courier reported the largest circulation losses.

Media General the owner of the Bristol Herald Courier is going the way of the New York Times. Its stock is approaching junk status, they have fired and downsized many of their employees, and stopped matching the 401ks of their employees.

In 2012 Media General sold most of its failing newspapers to Warren Buffett including the Bristol Herald Courier and the Richmond Times Dispatch. The jury is still out on newspapers, their rating on the trust scale with the public is very low.



J. Todd Foster the editor laments on his editorial Newspapers' Death Would Kill Investigative Reporting on March 22, 2009 on blogs such as mine:

While many of us get our first dose of breaking news on the Internet, the Web rarely reports, edits and produces that news. That duty falls primarily to newspapers and, to a lesser extent, local television and radio. The Web simply regurgitates what other outlets produce...a team of Internet reporters would not be unleashed on cities like our Bristols to cover city council and school board meetings, youth sports or nonprofit groups.

True, you would get breaking news of crime and accidents and rewrites of governmental and corporate press releases here. And even in Bristol there will be bloggers - some intelligent and qualified - to comment on the day's news. But those bloggers would have nothing to blog about without the presence of local news generated primarily by a newspaper...The worst thing missing from our society, however, should a news paperless existence befall us is the end of local investigative reporting as we know it...

Even in 2013 the Bristol Herald Courier doesn't do real investigative reporting. They never ask the hard questions and simply rehash public announcements anyone can get anyway. Their main advantage is being a newspaper they get more access than a blogger can, but only if they don't ask the hard questions.

While I highly respect Mr. Foster he is correct in that I (and most bloggers) don't give a hoot about another Chick-fil-A Restaurant as front page news. While I support the printed press, they are unreliable on a number of issues political and social issues. They refuse to investigate issues such what happened to the $120 million the Virginia Tobacco Commission gave away for "energy research."

One can't get them to investigate the outcome of the region's bloated port-barrel spending industry or to investigate local businesses using illegal aliens on government contracts.

In one case as much as much as $2 million was awarded to a wholesale plant nursery for energy research. I contacted this person to try to find what he was doing, but he refuses to answer any questions. Same with the other grants, as much as $700 million from this one agency alone.

A newspaper that does its job could get these answers because they have the power to do so. Bloggers can't get press passes. On a lot of other issues press bias and political correctness often leads to distorted or shallow reporting. Its on the issue of self-imposed censorship the Herald Courier and this writer got into a blowup. On March 28, 2009 they printed the following letter I submitted on this issue:

Re: Newspapers Death (March 22) I agree newspapers are vital, but as a blogger I must clear up some issues. Newspapers and blogs don't serve the same purpose. Their functions should compliment each other.

Newspapers indeed have staff, money, legal backing, and access most bloggers simply don't have. On the other end they are hamstrung with cost, corporate/editorial political bias, political correctness, and having the cover the community in general. Print space is also limited. They have a tough job.

Bloggers should never serve as newspapers, but as watchdogs. We don't have the cost and print space limitations, and are more focused on narrow issues. Bloggers can't obtain press passes (I usually don't need one), but can get into some places the press can't. A proper blogger must serve as a fact-checker with the local press. Bloggers should write on those things the "mainstream press" misses or censors such as:

The violent car-jacking, gang rape, and murder of a young white couple (Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom) in Knoxville by 5 blacks was unreported even in Tri-Cities while the claims of rape by a black prostitute at Duke made headlines for weeks. Broken by bloggers.

Calling illegal aliens "immigrants" and lumping them together with legal immigrants. Hiding the race and immigration status of criminals unless they are white. The UU Church shootings was constant front-page coverage because the perp was white, while the illegal alien that murdered Chandra Levy in Washington had his immigration status hidden. Broken by bloggers and Lou Dobbs.

The "mainstream press" constantly reports in a one-sided manner on global warming, yet bloggers counter these false claims or at least present dissenting views. And so on.

The reason the press is dying is because people no longer trust them to give the facts anymore. That has fallen on bloggers and it shouldn't. Let's support our printed press, and they must earn that support.

Lewis Loflin, Bristol, VA

At the bottom of the letter was an angry retort in which;

they claim the reason they didn't cover the Knoxville killings is because they are in Knoxville and don't concern Bristol;

they don't hide the race of felons and do print their pictures when available;

that their problems are related to a fragmented audience and bad marketing.

I understood my letter was about the general press, not just BHC and that was what I was aiming at. Mr. Foster claims "newspapers helped foment dissent among the Colonialists and lit the fuse that became the American Revolution and then became a linchpin in our nation's democratic foundation." But they didn't operate under political correctness nor were they all under the control of a few corporations. Today most of them are simply mouth-pieces for the Progressive left. None the less I submitted the following reply:

Re: my letter March 28. Two misquotes aside; it was never aimed at the Herald Courier, but clearly stated "mainstream press" which the Herald Courier relies on for non-local stories.

The Editor claims they didn't cover the Knoxville race killings because they occurred in Knoxville, but the front page (March 28 that day) carried a headline "Hell on Horton Road" about a 20-year-old solved murder case in Valley Stream, New York. What does that have to do with Bristol?

Yes the Courier gave front page headlines to the UU Church shootings in Knoxville and the hysteria from the left-scream press about right-wing hate books (O'Reilly, etc.) as the cause, but still ignores the ongoing Newsom/Christian murder trials. Why? Because the mainstream press ignores it until some stupid white racists show up. (Only then did the case get on CNN, etc.)

But the strange article "Tenuous Line Between Misunderstanding, Heartache" (April 12) would have been front page news if the abused and underpaid temp worker at a call center had been white instead of black when some ignorant black college professor at Emory started yelling racism. There goes your headline.*

The Courier is well known for its bias against a coal-fired power plant in Wise County, then acted as a selling board for costly windmills (March 29) which it endorsed. According to the New York Times (March 29) windmills could raise our power rates by 50 percent.

While Green Theology is a popular religion, printing constant one-sided AP hysterics on global warming seems more than just filling space. Religion overrules reason when the Courier publishes great editorials such as "Most Vulnerable Squeezed Most By Utility Hikes" (March 1) but can't connect the dots. Please explore the effect on rate payers as promised.

Finally, the Courier claims fractured audiences and bad business practices are responsible for the growing irrelevance of the press, not lack of trust. Floyd Norris of the New York Times (January 31) claims only 34 percent of the public trust newspapers. That's George Bush ratings.

* This concerned the story of some African-born college professor at Emory and Henry College in Washington County VA when she had problems getting trash pickup when she called a center in Nashville, TN. She felt insulted when the girl at the center apparently had problems understanding her accent and wanted to know what country she was from.

Another colleague called and he got the service with no problem. She started screaming racism, the newspaper got involved, etc. The end result was the "racist" on the other end was a black girl who got fired from her job over this dingbat racially dogmatic professor.

The problem is that journalism like law, education, etc. are products of a college system rife with left-wing politics and extremism. Most reporters and editors come from these elite universities that operate a system of hostile to traditional and in particular working class whites. this is why in 2013 President Obama gets a free ride on issues that Bush was attacked on every day.

So in 2013 the press is still worthless and still produces biased reporting, political correctness, and self-censorship.