Home Local Politics Sun Gazette’s Attacks on Women of Color, Criminal Justice Reformers, Climate Activists,...

Sun Gazette’s Attacks on Women of Color, Criminal Justice Reformers, Climate Activists, the LGBTQ Community, etc. Demonstrate That Arlington Deserves a Lot Better

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Note: While I would ordinarily exercise good journalistic habits, and include direct links to articles mentioned, in this post I opted not to, for two reasons: 1) I don’t want to drive any more traffic to this right-wing rag; and 2) links to several egregious old articles were mysteriously dead, or the articles were “updated” following criticism. – Cindy

Were you angry at the racist, misogynist editorial in the Sun Gazette (published online in InsideNoVA), where editor Scott McCaffrey singled out three women of color who are running for statewide office for lacking experience, despite numerous examples of recent statewide candidates and officeholders—including former Governor McAuliffe—who did not “lead committees in the General Assembly and successfully carry significant pieces of challenging legislation?” 

Well, guess what? This is just the latest in a very long pattern of this newspaper—delivered free to your doorstep in Arlington whether you want it or not—espousing outlandish right-wing views that don’t fit those of our community. Here are but a few examples of the countless I could list from Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey (bearing in mind that the most highly criticized articles are no longer available online for *some reason*):

  • McCaffrey called the idea of removing School Resource Officers from schools—who “serve as lifelines for some students” “delusional addled thinking of a small but noisy cabal,” “these groups, and the politicians who prostrate before them.” He even argued that those who want to replace School Resource Officers will have “blood on their hands, should an unthinkable (but alas all too frequent) attack occur.”
  • He complained about the Fairfax School Board “bull[ing] through” a “controversial measure on transgender students” – “to add sexual identity to a list of protected groups within the school system,” writing that “this is hardly an issue that is at the top of the to-do list in the community, is it?”
  • He opined on whether Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw—the “grand poobah of the legislature” would do his job to “smother” the “truly whacked-out” bills the House passed before they reached the Governor’s desk.
  • He repeatedly misspelled Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate (elected this past November) Parisa Dehghani-Tafti’s name incorrectly, referring to her for some strange reason as “Parisi,” even after being publicly and privately corrected.
  • He fretted that criminal justice reform is a “one-way march to not holding anyone accountable for anything they do any more [sic],” and then nicknamed those appearing in the crime blotter “Parisa’s Peeps,” “in honor of those who are going to be the beneficiary of that way of thinking – even criminals are considered victims these days.” (Finally managing to spell her name right.)
  • He called Mark Herring the “Cuccinelli of the left” and referred to “Herring’s ongoing leftward tilt that probably will only get wackier as he lurches along.”
  • He mocked the Fairfax County high school students’ strike to draw attention to the most important issue of our time—the climate crisis —calling them “pubescent activists” and concern-trolling that they will “have fallen another day behind the educational attainment of students in China, India, and other countries were [sic] public education isn’t relegated to babysitting status.” On a related note, he called climate activist Greta Thunberg an “annoying little Swede” and a “dour eco-warrior,” adding that she “needs to perk up; nobody likes a downer.” 
  • In complaining about his high Arlington County tax bill, he (I suppose) joked: “Memo to County Board Chairman Libby Garvey: It would be unprofessional of me to suggest that a newspaper endorsement in the primary race could be tied to whether the County Board finds a way to cut the tax rate. So consider it not suggested.”
  • And, on the subject of the coronavirus, which has now surpassed 90,000 cases in Virginia, including 2,165 deaths, he said “At some point, we’re going to have to let go of the Defcon 1 mentality, no matter how much the media and other fearmongers want us to retain it.”
  • He wrote: “If the legislature had not spent so much of its time fooling around with the Equal Rights Amendment, which was the phoniest issue of the session, perhaps they could have carved out some additional time for these pieces of legislation that actually would have accomplished something tangible and beneficial for their constituents. But that, of course, makes too much sense.”
  • He wrote, re: the Washington Post: “We all lived through the paper’s gay-marriage phase. Its change-the-Redskins-name era (which then got dropped like a hot potato). And its transgender phase. And the legalize-marijuana flirtation. Everybody who pays attention can figure out when the paper takes on one of its pet causes.”
  • He made a homophobic comment: “Gerry and Jim Can Sleep Easy Tonight (Though Most Likely Not Together – Dear God, Not Together!)”
  • After torrents of criticism, he doubled down on his attacks against Jennifer McClellan, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Hala Ayala by calling them and their supporters a “mob and its pitchforks” and/or “Woke Olympians”; arguing that  the big mistake with the initial editorial was probably that it should have “left the word ‘women’ out of the sentence a paragraph above, and just stuck with ‘three delegates’.”

On and on it goes. The question is whether this right-wing-slanted newspaper is something Arlington, a strongly Democratic and progressive community, ought to tolerate? What is the point of a local newspaper if it doesn’t even reflect the values of the locality it claims to serve?

For the record, the Sun Gazette was purchased from American Community Newspapers LLC by Texas-based HPR Hemlock LLC in 2012, doing business in Virginia under the name Northern Virginia Media Services. (Its online component, InsideNoVA, was sold off to Rappahannock Media in 2018.) I can’t say whether HPR Hemlock president, Richard L. Connor has ever stepped foot in Northern Virginia, but he’s left a bit of a trail in Pennsylvania and Maine, where he owns other local papers, and has been sued for outstanding debts.

What can we do about this situation? Well, first off, don’t read the Arlington Sun Gazette. While the paper’s business model allows it to solicit ads based on “circulation”—a figure based on how many doors they drop it at, not how many people pick it up and read it – you’re still better off not reading it. And that especially means not linking to or sharing Sun Gazette stories on social media or elsewhere. This goes for other right-wing media outlets as well, such as anything owned by Fox or Sinclair.

Beyond that, the Arlington Sun Gazette’s business model relies on advertising revenue. Which raises the question, who’s paying to advertise in this right-wing rag? Sadly, it’s the local businesses where you shop. Businesses like Heidelberg Bakery, Celtic House, Precision Printers, Snyder’s Shades and Shutters, Point of View Eyewear, Leaf Filter, Marlene Moonshine-Voelker and Kaelin Hall at Keller-Williams, Capitol Sheds, Duffy Counseling Center, David Lloyd at Weichert, Everlasting Dental Care, and many others. These are the people who have the power to demand change at the Arlington Sun Gazette.

So the next time you find this right-wing real-estate rag masquerading as a “newspaper” lying around somewhere, look who’s paying for it with their advertising dollars. Then, reach out to those businesses and let them know how you feel about this paper where their ads are proudly displayed.