SOCIAL/MEDIA: ‘Wait. Doug Reynolds said what about what on Twitter?!?’


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Doug Reynolds, Media Lord. | WestVirginiaVille.com colorized photo.

By Douglas John Imbrogno | march4.2021 | WestVirginiaVille.com

The word ‘gobsmacked‘ should be used sparingly. It derives from the Irish/Scottish word for mouth — ‘gob’ — so might be transliterated as ‘smacked in the mouth.’ But in slang usage it means to be flabbergasted, astounded or made speechless.

I am sure I wasn’t the only West Virginian gobsmacked by a tweet posted on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, by HD Media headman, Doug Reynolds, owner of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, The Putnam Herald, The Coal Valley news, and several more.

So, he’s, like, a Mountain State Media Lord, one who literally buys ink by the barrel. His whims, whimsies, and brainstorms help decide what a good portion of the state see — those still tuned into legacy media — when they try to figure out the world through the lens of the daily newspaper.

Reynolds commented in response to Crystal Good, self-described ‘Affrilachian artist, digital media entrepreneur, and social advocate,’ who had just tweeted a link to her pointed, well-reasoned “100 Days in Appalachia” commentary: “Racial Disparities of COVID-19 Shed Light on the Disparities in West Virginia Journalism.”

Good’s column takes a deep dive into how health disparities between West Virginia’s white and Black populations have persisted during COVID-19, a fact you you would barely know from most local and national headlines:


“We know that Black Americans are dying at 1.4 times the rate of white Americans, but across the country, white Americans are getting vaccinated at twice the rate.”


Yet in all the glowing national coverage of the state’s leader-of-the-pack vaccination rates, have state or national media vigorously explored these deadly racial disparities? Good rounded up for her column a substantive bunch of issues worth discussing, disputing, and bringing into the light of day:

“When it comes to communicating with Black communities in this state, West Virginia leans on the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs,” she writes. “The office’s executive director and one staffer attend those Martin Luther King Day celebrations and token Black History month events, but in almost a year of daily state government press conferences about the coronavirus, the office who leads the  COVID-19 Advisory Commission on African American Disparities has not been given the microphone to speak to the public.”

Pause there.

Did you even know there is a COVID-19 Advisory Commission on African American Disparities? If you’ve been following the year-long Jim Justice performance art pressers on West Virginia’s coronavirus response you know far more about Babydog or the governor’s on-again, off-again cold-shouldering of the Gazette-Mail’s Phil Kabler at question time.


She deploys a notable phrase, worth injecting into discussions about media coverage in the Mountain State and outside it: “information inequality.”


Good’s column proceeds then to its primary target. She aims a pointed stick at media diversity at the staff and newspaper ownership level in the state — which, Reynolds being a Mountain State Media Titan, maybe took personally. She writes:

“Very little data is available on diversity in the news media in West Virginia – how many people of color work as reporters, editors, in sales, or distribution – much like what we see from the health data during this global pandemic.”

She deploys a notable phrase, worth injecting into any discussion about media coverage in or out of the Mountain State: “information inequality.”


Image from “The Black Church: This Is Our Story. This Is Our Song.”

It should be recalled why, exactly, Black churches and pastors became so central to the life of Black communities, Good continues, since Black people were forcibly and violently excluded from the commons of white life from the get-go. West Virginia native Henry Louis Gates lays out that story in his new PBS Documentary series, “The Black Church: This Is Our Story. This Is Our Song.”

As Good puts it:

“[Gates] takes a macro look at why the Black church was so important during and following legal slavery in this country, and remains so important today, explaining how Black people have been systematically brutalized and debased throughout our history as a nation, from the inhumane system of human slavery to a century of Jim Crow racism to the vicious murder of George Floyd.”


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Black pastors in West Virginia offer a voice and are “a reminder that we alternate between not being seen and being hypervisible whenever there is a health disparity or social problem. And when these problems occur, Black people in West Virginia are likely to be caught in the crosshairs — and in the paradox of visibility, especially in the world of white-run news media, that needs a remedy.”

The first Black newspaper in West Virginia, The Advocate, appeared in 1901 and the last, The Beacon Digest, closed in 2006, says Good. “According to the West Virginia Press Association, not one of West Virginia’s 70 newspapers in 35 years has employed more than three Black reporters at one time, of which I was one.”

Given my sampling of Good’s column and if, say, YOU were a Media Lord of West Virginia, how might you respond to a link to this column after it appeared on your Twitter timelines?

Hold that thought. Here is how Doug Reynold’s responded:



Gob. Meet smacked.


Below is the full-court reaction from West Virginia Twitter (and beyond) to Reynolds. If you’d like a word with Reynolds about his ‘Wayne County After Dark” tweet, I’d love to link to it, but he deleted it. That just never works out on Twitter:



My friend Jim McKay had perhaps the most succinct response:



Then, in a newsroom revolt you just don’t see often, two of the Gazette-Mail’s star newsroom acts, Ryan Quinn and Lacie Person (who are worth getting past the paywall to read,) weighed in. Speaking Truth to Doug, as it were:



As I went to press with this editorial, I checked on Twitter to find that Reynolds has indeed apologized:



That’s a start. Here’s an offer to Reynolds and Good. WestVirginiaVille hereby officially offers to bring you both into our Huntington studio and have, let’s say, a heart-to-heart, on camera. You can reach us at: heythereATwestvirginiaville.com.

There is a lot to discuss. Not everything Good says hits the bulls-eye. (She tells Reynolds, for instance, to tear down that paywall around his newspapers, in order to make media coverage more equitable and accessible. Yet as much as we may resent paywalls, they are one of the few bandages keeping local newspapers alive as they bleed out right and left.)


Brooke Rawson dropped into the Twitter flow Tuesday to make a helpful point to Reynolds and to point him — and, by extension, a whole lot of us white folk — to some catching up to do:



Rawson’s link goes to the website ‘Cultural Bridges to Justice‘ and a post by Jona Olsson on “Detour Spotting for White Anti-racists.” The post’s opening paragraphs are worth quoting at length and I recommend the post to all:


From “Detour Spotting for White Anti-racists“:

For white people living in North America learning to be anti-racist is a re-education process. I must unlearn the thorough racist conditioning to re-educate and re-condition myself as an anti-racist. I need knowledge, guidance and experience to avoid the detours and traps waiting for me on this journey.

There is little social or political encouragement for this journey of re-education. We are constantly tempted to change course by the racist propaganda of society and our own guilt and denial. In the face of society’s and our own resistance, sustaining the will to continue this journey takes bold and stubborn effort.

This journey sends us into unfamiliar territory; we have never been here before. No white person has ever lived in a non-racist North America.) None of us has ever been taught the skills of anti-racist living. Indeed, we have been carefully taught the opposite: how to maintain our white privilege. Racism, the system (of oppression) and advantage (for white people) depends on the collusion and cooperation of white people for its perpetuation.


P.S.

I also recommend to Doug Reynolds — and to all us white folk wishing to unlearn baked-in racist conditioning, however well intentioned we may think ourselve to be — to check out West Virginia native Jeff James’ book, “Giving Up Whiteness” (which Crystal Good had a hand in birthing). WestVirginiaVille spoke with the author about it in October 2020:


5 QUESTIONS: West Virginia native tracks a journey into “Giving Up Whiteness”: oct31.2020: West Virginia native Jeff James has written a book with one of 2020’s most provocative titles: “GIVING UP WHITENESS.” Elizabeth Gaucher takes a deep dive into the genesis and themes of the book in “5 Questions” with the author.


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RELATED

A video visit to Covid-19 testing in an African-American community: may27.2020: We need far more testing to size up Covid-19, and also why it disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities. Here’s a WestVirginiaVille video drop-in and interview with two Black pastors in Huntington during a drive-up Covid testing site in Huntington WV.


DRAGLINE: The Pro-Pipeline Editorial by the Pipeline Industry CEO/Publisher: july21.2020: “It’s damn easy to figure out what has been lost,” Doug Reynolds wrote in his West Virginia newspapers about cancellation of a gas pipeline, “but for the life of me I can’t ascertain who won.” What Reynolds fails to mention is who exactly is losing what: his natural gas pipeline construction company.


DEAR DOUG REYNOLDS: An Open Letter On Your Pro-Pipeline Column: july13.2020: “One would think you might have had serious second thoughts about not revealing some key information in your pro-pipeline column. After all, you were standing in the bully pulpit of a newspaper that prided itself on shedding light into dark corners of conflicts of interest and spotlighting partial truths that mask self-interest.”


DEAR DOUG REYNOLDS: march9.2020: We all let out a sigh of relief in the building when HD Media bought the Charleston Gazette-Mail. A West Virginia guy with deep pockets, if a middle-of-the-road, non-fire-breathing dragon sort. But still! A sort-of, quasi-liberal new owner, for one of America’s renowned, way-liberal, fire-breathing, storied small newspapers. But… did we get that wrong? | Article from TheStoryIsTheThing.com



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