The Bulletin

FROM THE EDITOR: Judge us on our journalism

By: - July 20, 2018 3:40 pm

As Jim Bacon at Bacon’s Rebellion chronicles ably and fairly here, an email by David Poole, executive director of the Virginia Public Access Project, to the nonprofit’s board of directors that raised concerns about the source of our funding, leaked out to a wider audience this week.

Poole had asked me for more information beyond what we listed on the website in order to be included in VPAP’s VaNews email newsletter of news articles. I said I’d get back to him.

In the meantime, we plunged headlong into our scheduled launch on Tuesday. When we came up for air Thursday, one of our reporters heard about Poole’s email from a political source.

“We are making an assumption that the Mercury is similar to the Southeast Energy News, which is published by a clean-energy group. It looks and feels like conventional journalism, but it is advocacy in the same way an industry newsletter is,” he wrote, adding that VPAP would avoid running any of our energy and environment coverage.

When I called Poole Thursday afternoon, he could not give me an example of our news coverage that was “advocacy in the same way an industry newsletter is.” VaNews has run several of our stories. On Thursday, two of them were among the top five most read on the site.

Poole also apologized and said the email wasn’t intended to go outside the organization.

Of course, VPAP can make its own decisions. These are rapidly changing times for media and I sympathize with Poole about the calls he has to make over what’s news and what isn’t as the business model that has traditionally sustained print journalism implodes all around us.

As I told Bacon, the donors to the Hopewell Fund who are providing our seed money wish to remain anonymous. I am bound to respect that. They have funded journalism projects over many years and want to augment coverage of state issues.

However, the decisions about what we cover and how we cover it are made independently by the four of us: me, Mechelle, Ned and Katie. And we want to hear from all sides of the issues. That’s the only way to do journalism right.

We will have commentary with a point of view, clearly labeled as such, just as every traditional newspaper does. Everyone is free to disagree with it and let us know on our social media channels or here.

Our goal in the near future is to attract Virginia funders and we welcome donors who support our mission of in-depth coverage of Virginia government and policy. We hope to be able to begin that process soon.

In the meantime, judge us by our journalism, which we have worked hard to ensure is fair, relevant and accurate.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers and was previously editor of the Virginia Mercury. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected]