WJAR’s Valicenti Editing: Don’t Trust Media to Protect Our Rights


On the surface, perhaps it appears to be a minor curiosity, but the story of WJAR’s stumbling and unprecedented revision of a completed episode of its flagship weekend news talk show, 10 News Conference with Gene Valicenti, may prove to be one of the most consequential stories of our  moment.

In brief, while interviewing presumed House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi (D, Warwick), Valicenti asked a question that (if memory serves) he asked outgoing Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) after an earlier election.   The new progressives are coming in with an agenda and a desire to fight the establishment, so how are you going to address that challenge?  Trying to set context and draw out an answer — as he’s wont to do — Valicenti referred to some evidence of his assumptions, in this case, a photo of three newly elected progressive women on the steps of the State House, looking adversarial and with the caption (in Rep.-elect Tiara Mack’s words), “We don’t just want a seat at the table. We’re bringing the table back to where it belongs: with the people. This is our power. This is our house.”

Valicenti’s statement was not in the least outside the bounds of ordinary political discourse.   He appropriately described Mack as “fierce-looking” in the photo and asked, “Is she coming up here to fight with you?  … This is a young person who has her own ideas about things?”

But even this mild commentary (which is arguably complimentary, from the progressives’ perspective) was too much.  A little bit of noise on social media, and WJAR pulled the episode from its website and skipped its airing for the weekend, planning (it appears) to recut it and re-release it.

Worse, the presentation of the controversy by both Donita Naylor, in The Providence Journaland Dan McGowan, in The Boston Globe, is clearly in the spirit of the women’s grievance.  Neither gives any sense that this sort of reaction from a major news outlet is at all unusual or maybe even objectionable.  Naylor quotes Mack at length:

“Words mean things,” Mack said, “and there was a lot of negative connotation packed into his words. Progressive is not a bad word, and change in politics is positive. Ahead of us making this historic swearing in as three people recently elected, the attention around us should be overwhelmingly positive because of the historic merit” of winning their races.

Put aside all of the identity politics and self-aggrandizing rhetoric, and state what happened here factually:  Three politicians — lawmakers who will have a direct hand imposing rules by which all of us will be required to live under force of law — objected that an established, trusted news anchor was not expressly and “overwhelmingly positive” about them, and the news station responded with groveling.  Then journalists for two major newspapers reported on the incident more or less from the lawmakers’ perspective.

The bottom line lesson: Rhode Islanders should not trust the local news media to do anything to protect their civil rights, even to the extent of straightforward reportage that puts incidents’ in an objective context, as progressives gain power.

The first dangerous development, here, is that the identity groups and progressive ideology of powerful officials is making them immune to criticism, even as mild as an ambiguously provocative devil’s advocate question.

The second is that the rules aren’t even reliably defined.  It’s a mind attack.  It’s 1984 doublethink.  If “fierce” sounds negative, commentators are not permitted to look at the image above and see fierceness.  But if “fierce” sounds positive, then those same commentators are not permitted to see anything softer, which would be proclaimed as dismissive — if, for example, it had been Gene Valicenti, rather than Donita Naylor, who said the women were “posing like fashion models.”

Worse, either attack could be deployed based not even on what is said, but on who is saying it, with the consequence that a news anchor whom progressives have condemned as “conservative” is simply not permitted to speak of progressive government officials.

Fresh at the start of 2021, we can be sure that this message — this early symptom of metastasizing fascism — has been received by other journalists, as well as by other politicians, advocates, and public figures, who are forewarned about how the media will censor them.  If the host of the show cannot say something so run-of-the-mill, surely nobody who opposes the progressives overtly will be permitted to risk the airing of a future episode by being permitted to speak, much less have the power to force revision of episodes in which they are mentioned (if they ever are mentioned again).

  • PeterVE

    If you want a demonstration of what the corporate media believes about freedom of the press, read their ringing defenses of Julian Assange.

    Go ahead, I can wait……………………….

  • Lou

    There are (at least) three problems with your article, Justin. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with your main point with WJAR management, but:
    1) if you are reliant on ” local news media to do anything to protect their civil rights” you are misguided
    2) if you think WJAR news has any credibility since they started forcing news anchors to read Sinclair’s talking points and running their pre-packaged propaganda, you are even more misguided
    3) if you think this is an example of “metastasizing fascism”, you need a dictionary (fascism (noun) an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization) as I don’t think anyone referenced in your post is advocating for “right-wing system of government”.

    Happy New Year!

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Among Progressives (formerly Liberals) “Fascism” has lost it’s meaning. It is only an indicator of what you don’t like. For instance, all of the cries of Trump being “fascist”

      • Lou

        “It is only an indicator of what you don’t like”…are you accusing Justin of being a progressive? It’s clearly something he doesn’t like, and perhaps you as well.

        “a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism” sounds like something the Orange Fuhrer would welcome, no?

    • Justin Katz

      It takes a good bit of historical blindness to play that definition like a card as you have. Fascist dictators don’t come waltzing in proclaiming they’re going to put the entire society under their heels and make life hell. Young brown shirts intimidating people and insisting that it’s illegitimate to question leaders of the party is textbook early-stage fascism. The dictator will come as the movement gains power. As for a dictionary’s limiting the definition to “nationalistic” and “right-wing,” that’s more an indication of the political bent of the people who write dictionaries than a functional part of the definition; otherwise, there would be a left-wing equivalent.

      • bagida’wewinini

        Now it’s the people who write dictionaries that Katz believes is part of the plot to suppress truth and justice that he adds to his ever growing list of enemies. Could this be the result of the nearly year long presence of a deadly virus that may have also contributed to feelings of paranoia and other mental derangements? Or is this consistent with how some self defined conservatives deal with new realities, like political representatives who are young and do not look like themselves?

  • Christopher C. Reed

    Gee…it’s almost as if there are some whom one is not permitted to criticize…no, that can’t be true. Shirley Knot!

  • steve22

    The faux-outrage is laughable. I suspect “the hubbub”, as Ms Taylor describes it in her piece, is more in response to Shekarchi’s dismissive comments than Gene’s use of the word fierce. But they have to keep the local media in lock step. How long did the WPRO boycott go on until DePetro was fired? JAR is obviously terrified of becoming the next target. But Gene is a long way from JP.
    The Projo piece, complete with it’s “fashion-model” pose, was an attempt to portray RI as having its own little Squad. How cute. This media is obsessed with legislators who complete diversity checkboxes, rather than, you know, producing meaningful legislation that will improve the lives of their constituents.

    • bagida’wewinini

      These three newly elected legislators have just today been sworn in so we don’t know what they’ll accomplish. The fact that they defeated establishment politicians and they are women of color does invite the comparison to the so called squad of the US House. It’s fine that you think that is cute but don’t you agree that we should withhold judgments about them at this point.

      • steve22

        Of course, but this is off topic. The piece and my comment are in regards to the media reaction to the “hubbub” caused by Gene’s use of a word and his employer’s response.

        • bagida’wewinini

          How is my response to you off topic? You wrote, ” This media is obsessed with legislators who complete diversity checkboxes, rather than, you know, producing meaningful legislation that will improve the lives of their constituents, so I was responding to that. I find it encouraging that you agree that these new legislators should not be judged prematurely

          • steve22

            I’m happy you are encouraged.
            Back on topic: Do you think Gene should’ve been attacked for his use of a rather benign word and have his show placed on hold because the usual offendees are offended? I call it censorship. What about you?

          • bagida’wewinini

            Steve. I think the events of today makes your question about an editorial decision by an editor an interesting topic for another time.

  • ShannonEntropy

    …either attack could be deployed based not even on what is said, but on who is saying it

    This is all just a small part of The Great Replacement now underway

    You think “Cancel Culture” is bad, Gene ??

    Wait til you see what they have in store for your kids & grand kids

    • bagida’wewinini

      It comes as no surprise that one who uses a disgusting slur when referring to our country’s Vice President would peddle the great replacement theory.

      • ShannonEntropy

        After they complete their plan and depose Joe, I guess we can then call her “P-hoe-TUS”

        • bagida’wewinini

          My eyes are open and seeing a misogynist white supremacist coward