Self-Censorship of Mob Crime–Hate Crime?–Against Reporters

Self-Censorship of Mob Crime–Hate Crime?–Against Reporters

When two reporters for the Obama administration-linked Virginia Pilot were injured and unable to work after an attack by a violent street corner mob, apparently on Saturday, April 14, the Pilot failed to report the news story. 

Along with a now former publisher currently serving in the Obama administration, the Pilot falls under the control of the Battens, an old Virginia family a source characterized as part of the politically liberal establishment.

When contacted by Breitbart News regarding their curious non-reporting of a potentially inflammatory story, Virginia Pilot Managing Editor Maria Carrillo issued the following response in email. The editorial’s author, Michelle Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.

As Shelly noted in her column, we handled this situation as if it involved any two people in our community. Police, at this point, still have it officially listed as a “simple assault.” It has not been determined that this was a hate crime. It’s beyond ludicrous for folks to assume that we would not report on this to protect those who attacked our reporters.

Breitbart News had not suggested they were protecting anyone, but simply asked for comment on the non-story that became one only after a Pilot editorial two weeks later. After additional questions as to whether the Pilot knew of the circumstances at the time and if it was commonplace for the Pilot to defer to police reports over eyewitness accounts from their own reporters, Carrillo expanded her response to include this comment:

We were aware, … of course. And of course, we weigh every bit of information we have and we don’t simply rely on the police for what’s newsworthy – come on, seriously? I stand by what I messaged you earlier. Still not clear if this was a hate crime.

The Pilot’s position appears to be, if a mob violently attacks and injures two citizens, it’s not news, unless police classify it as a hate crime. If anything is “beyond ludicrous” in this story, their claimed reasoning may well qualify. It’s also worth pointing out, as one blog observed, one month earlier the U.S. Senate approved the appointment of former Pilot publisher, Maurice Jones, as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Obama administration.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved the appointment of Maurice Jones, publisher of The Virginian-Pilot, to be deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As one can’t seem to rely upon Virginia Pilot reporting at this point, we may never know what, if any, role an Obama appointee played in spiking the story. When contacted for comment, Executive Director of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Joe Skeel indicated there were no guidelines to govern journalistic behavior in an instance like this; however, we would point out the mission statement from the SPJ website.

To ensure that the concept of self-government outlined by the U.S. Constitution remains a reality into future centuries, the American people must be well informed in order to make decisions regarding their lives, and their local and national communities. It is the role of journalists to provide this information in an accurate, comprehensive, timely and understandable manner.

The Pilot could have reported the story without disclosing the identity of their own reporters, thereby warning local residents of a possible danger within their community. The Pilot clearly failed to meet that professional responsibility, whatever their reasoning.

The two Virginia Pilot reporters were attacked by a mob on their way home from a local Saturday night show, a Pilot editor revealed on May 1st that the incident had not previously been reported by the paper. Assuming the stated time-line is accurate (there’s now good reason to doubt the Pilot’s reporting of anything), Saturday, April 14 would have been just two days after George Zimmerman was indicted in the Trayvon Martin killing. It warrants pointing out, as the editorial also mentions the Trayvon Martin incident.

Wave after wave of young men surged forward to take turns punching and kicking their victim.

The victim’s friend, a young woman, tried to pull him back into his car. Attackers came after her, pulling her hair, punching her head and causing a bloody scratch to the surface of her eye. She called 911. A recording told her all lines were busy. She called again. Busy. On her third try, she got through and, hysterical, could scream only their location.

The next day, Forster searched Twitter for mention of the attack. One post chilled him. “I feel for the white man who got beat up at the light,” wrote one person. “I don’t,” wrote another, indicating laughter. “(do it for trayvon martin)”

Without mind-reading capabilities, it’s impossible to know for certain the motivation behind the Pilot’s spiking of a then politically-charged incident. Did they do it to protect the image of their community, to kill a potentially inflammatory story with racial overtones possibly damaging for the Obama administration’s desired news narrative, or some other inexplicable reason? Worse, will readers trust them to tell the truth at this point? Whatever the answers to those questions, the Pilot clearly fell short of the standards for professional journalism, potentially tarnishing all mainstream news outlets and journalists in the process.

They’ve updated their news item with a link to a generic editor’s response that does nothing to substantially enlighten readers. It only repeats the same ridiculous alleged reasoning for their burying a news story. If it was not a high crime area, as they claim, that would seem to make the incident all the more unusual and potentially newsworthy. For those who believe the news establishment is liberally biased and generally supportive of the Obama administration, the Pilot’s irresponsible and unethical handling of the incident is sure to provide them plenty of proof for their assertions.

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Update: An arrest has reportedly been made.