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Gazette-Virginian: Ethically Impaired and/or Lazy?

If you’re going to use a biased article written by a member of a group that has a track record for inflammatory language, you should at least disclose who wrote the article.

I don’t give a damn what your opinion is on uranium mining is (mine is that I have no idea whether it’s safe enough or not, if you care) but if you’re not going to send a reporter to a uranium mining committee meeting that’s only 30 miles away, it’s rather shabby to feature an article that uses biased wording and is written by somebody inside the anti-uranium group on the front page of your newspaper.

On the Wednesday, June 20th edition of the Gazette-Virginian, the top story was the uranium mining committee meeting that happened in Chatham 2 days prior. I’m charging the Gazette-Virginian with laziness because they didn’t send a reporter there to cover it. I’m adding to the laziness charge because they had two stories about the meeting. One of them was from the Danville Register & Bee’s Tara Bozick. That story was used by permission of the R&B and properly credited. It was an objective article which adequately recapped the meeting. Even though the GV used another newspaper’s reporting, it was attributed properly and clearly. I’ve got no problem with that.

On the other hand, right beside that R&B article was the one I’ve linked to above. It was bylined as “Special To The Gazette” which means “written by somebody else”. I have no idea who wrote that article as it’s not attributed. As you can see, the article is clearly one-sided in favor of the anti-uranium group and had no mention of Virginia Uranium, Inc or the group in favor of the mining. That type of contributed article is fine for a op-ed but even then it would need an attribution of the author and the group that they support.

As a longtime reporter, Gazette-Virginian editor Paula Bryant knows the ethical guidelines on situations like these and should have done the right thing in either editing the story to make it news-worthy objective or sending it to the op-ed page. She didn’t and that’s a shameful example of laziness and failure to live up to journalistic ethics.

I wrote the following email to Paula Bryant and Linda Shelton (publisher) on Wednesday night…

Ms. Shelton & Ms. Bryant:

I would like to know the sourcing for the article in Monday’s  Gazette-Virginian that was headlined “Uranium opponents: Governor  sidestepping process to lift ban on mining” that appears on the front page above-the-fold. It was bylined as a generic “Special to the Gazette” which  is unclear as to its origin.

I found the article to be biased in its coverage of the anti-uranium groups beacuse it used leading language to advance the anti-uranium side’s agenda over the pro-mining’s side. I feel an article like that was not objective news coverage and had no place in the news section of your newspaper.

I look forward to hearing your answer to my inquiry.

Bruce Hedrick

I received no reply from either Bryant or Shelton on that email (and still haven’t). I was able to catch Paula Bryant coming out of the Riverstone building Friday morning and asked her if she had gotten my email. She said that she had. When asked if I was going to get a reply, she said “No.” I asked her who wrote the article and she said “You can tell that by reading the first paragraph.”

That’s shameful, lazy and ethically wrong. Bryant (and by extension the Gazette-Virginian) showed laziness, a lack of journalisitic ethics and borderline contempt to a person that has a legitimate complaint about the writing. This article isn’t about uranium mining, it’s about using somebody else’s biased writing for your newspaper and not attributing the work.

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