Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Debating Style Weekly's Environmentalism Tactics

At J's Notes, I chimed in with my disapproval about Style pulling their support from the Richmond's Environmental Film Festival. Then, Jason Roop, of Style Weekly clarified the position of his paper here and here. And today, Style cover story is a feature about John Wade. This dust-up is certainly getting it's due. I'm hoping that the main idea isn't lost in the shuffle, because Richmond has a chance to start an annual tradition and deepen our city's environmental ethics.

Other media also focused on Wade. He's featured on Richmond.com. For those concerned about supporting a "terrorist", I think you can see that the man has chosen a campaign of ideas, words, and images - powerful tools that should not inspire fear. If you want to support education over property destruction as a tactic, your attendance at one of this weekend's movies is a great way to weigh in. When the mountains of Southwest VA are having their ridges detonated and laid to waste in pursuit of coal, taking in a movie and/or speaking event is probably in order.

Oh yeah... Ralph Nader is going to be at the Byrd too. Another man who inspires mixed emotions because of the kinds of campaigns he's chosen. He is also generally without remorse (I discovered this when I urged him not to run for prez in 2004, after having supported him in 2000 - don't hit me). And yet, the "green giant" is still a hero of mine. We parted ways on some stuff, but there is still plenty we can agree to work on together. Hopefully, Richmond will grant John Wade the same consideration or at least a bunch of us will decide to look at "The Biggest Picture" rather than focusing on one man.


After reading the the Style feature story "Wade's War," I want to recommend it. It's an informative story that contributes important context for those who are pining for the details of our beloved Short Pump under seige. For the time being, I would prioritize reading the epic piece right behind hearing Larry Gibson speak (on Sunday 3:30pm at the Byrd) about the mountain range around his home being leveled by Dominion Virginia Power.


  1. Ambivalent Richmonder12:57 AM

    I thought it was odd that Style said "we hope the message doesn't get lost in the controversy" while breaking the story of the controversy and pulling their sponsorship.

  2. Jason Roop1:35 AM

    It's not really that odd, ambivalent richmonder, although I agree that sometimes it gets messy.

    A newspaper is a unique business in that it often has competing interests. For example, you don't want a restaurant's advertising dollars to interfere with the objectiveness of a restaurant review. That's the wall between editorial and advertising. You want readers to trust the content of the paper.

    So a newspaper can have people who make decisions on the one hand that deal with its business relationships and how to appropriately spend resources.

    And on the other hand -- and I hope you would agree this is essential to independent media -- the editorial side of the newspaper must report on information it believes its readers want to know and/or should know about.

    In the end, Style Weekly really isn't the story. What is more interesting is the debate within the environmental movement; whether John Wade -- a newsworthy subject -- has paid a just price for what he did; and the issues that he raises in this week's cover story.

  3. Well, I don't know that I agree that John Wade "is the story" when shifting the focus (from political to personal and sensational) diverts attention from the cause of environmentalism.

    Anyhow, I feel like I've already contributed the bulk of my caustic comments on this thru other people's blogs. This post was mostly intended as a compilation of the debate to date in case more people want to jump in (although the link seems to have gone dead on last week's Style story that kicked off this mess).

  4. Jason Roop2:06 PM

    At the risk of adding another posting, I just wanted to chime in with a final thought in an effort to answer the question you raised here:

    I fail to see how 3,000 words exploring John and the environmental movement (not to mention the Ralph Nader interview) does anything to divert attention from environmental issues. John's on the cover of 42,500 copies of Style Weekly today, so I would imagine that a much greater focus has been shifted to both his cause and his festival.

    And just what is sensational? This is the truth. It's relevant. It's what happened, for better or worse. And it's a unique opportunity for John to talk to the Richmond community as well as his victims. I hope you'll read the story.

    The article is very much about politics and the public interest. There isn't much "personal" in it aside from the personal thoughts that he shared with us, and what inspired him to pursue this cause.

    I hope what John and others in the story have to say will inspire lots of discussion about politics as well as environmentalism. I've enjoyed reading much of it already on several blogs, in and outside of Richmond.

  5. I look forward to the next Style weekly "Breaking news" exposé!

  6. Ambivalent Richmonder4:47 PM

    Thanks, Jason Roop, for your clarifying comments. I do understand your dilemma and the publication's "competing interests." That's one reason I blog anonymously- to reduce my own competing interests. Large publications do not have that luxury.

    As best I can tell from your public comments, your competing interests involve on one hand, your desire to promote awareness, dialogue and action on environmentalism and on the other hand, your need for advertising money -likely from businesses wary of a publication that supports someone who has, in the past, committed a criminal act. Have I understood correctly?

    I do stand by my critique that your lament that the controversy may overshadow the cause sounds disingenuous. It may not BE disingenuous, but it comes off that way to me. You, as the press, are responsible for choosing which news items to publicize, thus turning them into public controversies. So a lament over a previously non-existent controversy rings hollow. It's like a parent saying "this hurts me more than it hurts you." While possibly true, though who could judge whether parent or child feels more pain, or indeed whether physical or psychological pain is greater, the pain of the spanking isn't diminished by the parent's lament.

    A stronger statement, to me, would be for Style to stand by the CONTENT of the festival, distance itself from past action of the organizer, and express hope (and monetary support, or whatever sponsorship entails) that this new effort Wade is starting is evidence that he, and the movement generally, are engaging in productive methods of furthering a worthy cause.

    We as a society are awfully unforgiving of people's past actions. Your withdrawal of support from this FILM festiavl suggests to me that the organizer can NEVER redeem himself. Is this true? What could he be involved in that Style would sponsor? Anything? A bake sale supporting NRDC?

    It's too bad that major polluters, like Dominion, or people who destroy the NATURAL (instead of human-made) environment, like Massey energy co., aren't subject to prosecution under the PATRIOT ACT. Because maybe then they'd inspire as much ethical scrutiny as Wade has.

  7. You guys are taking advantage of the infinite column inches of the web, but if you had an editor, I'll bet this exchange woulda been full of pithy retorts.

    Q: Where's the peanut gallery?

    A: Hopefully, ignoring this debate, taking out the recycling, riding a bike, and planning to attend the film fest.

  8. Hello All,
    Though I'm more than a day late and a dollar short, I'd still like to comment here. Following the news closely here in Richmond for the last 15 years in all media formats, I don't remember hearing much about Wade's action when it happened, nor his resulting conviction, sentence and jail time. And I do pay special attention to radical lefty activity too. Help me out here, did I miss something, or was the story squashed when it happened? This is not to implicate Style Weekly, but rather to question how we arrived at the point of the ongoing discussion in the posts and comments.

  9. Stakolee, that's a great question. Sounds like it was swept under the rug to preserve the fragile image of a shopping destination. Add to that, Style's opportunistic focus on Wade's history and we have a case study in what's wrong with journalism today. As for Wade's comments on J's notes, it looks like he's managed to remain positive and his hard work paid off with a great event for Richmond. Kudos.


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