The Virginia media sphere has gotten a little bigger as a small group of local reporters were plucked from their respective publications to form Virginia Mercury, which is, “commit to fair, tough reporting in the public interest. From criminal justice and immigration to health care, the environment, energy and politics, we especially want to take on stories that have major consequences for real people but have fallen through the cracks of an increasingly fractured, shrinking local and state media landscape,” says editor Robert Zullo in their introduction letter.
Many were made aware of Virginia Mercury via VaNews, an aggregator of all things newsy in and around the Commonwealth. Upon their inception earlier this month, three articles from the site appeared on VaNews, which is interesting considering the site’s “standards for online providers.”
Bacon’s Rebellion was the first to raise questions, which entails two problems with inclusion of the brand new publication to the statewide news aggregator. According to the screenshot of the guidelines from VaNews, as provided by Bacon’s Rebellion there are a few problems:
Obviously, Virginia Mercury has not existed for six consecutive months – less than one, actually. Secondly, it does not, contrary to popular belief, work independently of outside advocacy organizations.
See, Virginia Mercury is funded by, according to Zullo, a large progressive-minded foundation, which has been found to be the Hopewell Fund. The fund is a big proponent of anti-fossil fuel and environmental issues, which, of course, is the part that violates the advocacy aspect of the guidelines.
Apparently, this was not disclosed to the news aggregator. Furthermore, it seems that the Hopewell Fund isn’t the only player behind the curtains of Virginia Mercury.
As David Poole from VaNews says, “Until Zullo comes clean about funding, we are going to avoid running the Mercury’s coverage of energy and environmental issues. We are making an assumption that the Mercury is similar to the Southeast Energy News, which is published by a clean-energy group. It looks and feels like conventional journalism, but it is advocacy in the same way an industry newsletter is.”
Without going into it just yet, the Hopewell Fund isn’t the only one involved here. The fund is also intertwined with other odd dealings like the New Venture Fund, Arabella Advisors, and other interesting organizations with interesting purposes.
So, what’s the real purpose behind Virginia Mercury. Is it a non-profit newspaper? Is it an advocacy organization? Is it a front for progressive-backed policy in the statehouse in Richmond?
Behind purpose, one will find money; behind money, one will find purpose. To find the answers to these questions one must follow the paper trail – and this trail is long, dark, and suspicious.