The Virginian-Pilot is catching a great deal of heat for their non-reporting of a beating of two white reporters by a large group of attackers.
The story was actually first reported by a Pilot opinion columnist Michelle Washington, two weeks after the fact.
Two weeks have passed since reporters Dave Forster and Marjon Rostami – friends to me and many others at the newspaper – were attacked on a Saturday night as they drove home from a show at the Attucks Theatre. They had stopped at a red light, in a crowd of at least 100 young people walking on the sidewalk. Rostami locked her car door. Someone threw a rock at her window. Forster got out to confront the rock-thrower, and that’s when the beating began.
The Pilot’s defense is that they rarely report “simple assaults,” which is how the police categorized this. Editor Denis Finley wrote:
The attackers are black; Forster and Rostami are white. A Twitter post mentioned Trayvon Martin, fueling the opinion that we are practicing reverse racism, that if a group of white people had attacked a black couple, the incident would have been front-page news.
None of this is true.
That’s an odd defense for the Pilot, to be honest. Defending a lack of reporting of one instant by pointing out a broader lack of reporting isn’t exactly the greatest defense.
The problem is, even if it is true, I haven’t spoken to anyone who believes it.
If a black couple was assaulted by 100 white kids, the Pilot would choose to not report it?
That’s what Mr. Finley is saying. I think he’s telling the truth, but I may be the only one.
The question then becomes what does it take to become news in this town. Today’s news is Son of Sam at a prayer breakfast, Virginia’s roads don’t have enough funding, Norfolk could name a schools superintendent soon, and that a 24-year old white male in Virginia Beach was charged with an assault.
Oops. Somehow an assault by a white guy made it into the newspaper.
I don’t think the Virginian-Pilot covered up this story. It’s silly to think so. Their own reporters were the victims.
But I’ve long taken issue with what the Virginian-Pilot decides is news. This issue shines a really bright spotlight on the process of deciding what is important for print and what isn’t, a process I’ve never been a big fan of.
I don’t think the Pilot made a single-case coverup. I think they have some odd definitions overall of what is news and what isn’t.
What do you think?