Lessons in photo ops

2/2/2023, 6 p.m.
The front page of the Free Press’ Jan. 26 edition shows Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his wife, First Lady Suzanne ...

The front page of the Free Press’ Jan. 26 edition shows Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his wife, First Lady Suzanne Youngkin, surrounded by adorable first-graders at Richmond’s Carver Elementary School.

For some Free Press readers, the image is striking compared to Gov. Youngkin’s words last October when national test scores revealed that Virginia’s fourth-grade students had fallen behind in reading. The Republican governor, who recently marked his first-year anniversary in office, largely dumped the blame for the dismal scores on former Virginia administrations led by Democrats. Gov. Youngkin also noted that lower proficiency standards brought on by Democratic leadership and virtual learning caused by COVID-19, further contributed to the “catastrophic” test results.

After reading the governor’s comments last fall, a Free Press editorial urged him to leave the Virginia Executive Mansion and visit classrooms to glean firsthand how bright many public schools students are and to see how hard their teachers work.

Yet, in seeing Gov. Youngkin’s photo in the Jan. 26 Free Press, a reader, also known as a state legislator, chastised us for giving the governor a platform for “photo ops” while ignoring his hardline stance on gun violence, public safety and equity measures, along with a litany of other issues facing the Commonwealth.

We do not agree, but we get it.

We also reminded the reader/legislator that the Free Press is fully aware and intentional in everything that we publish even though we sometimes fail to get everything correct and even though we sometimes miss salient issues in our reporting.

We further informed the legislator that our readers are astute and intelligent. We present the news and leave it to them to interpret it as they wish.

Or, to borrow a phrase from the late North Carolina A&T State University President Warmoth T. Gibbs, “We teach our students how to think, not what to think.”

In short, we strive to present Free Press opinions and perspectives in this space—our editorial pages. Readers are free to respond to any and all content published by the Free Press. We encourage our audiences to call or write us whether such communication is civil, polite or sprinkled with a few choice words.

February is Black History Month. At the end of the day, let us remember what volumes of discourse and research have taught us about Black-owned publications such as the Free Press.

“The Black press has always been a source of Black American political power, and even among the most commercial ventures, it is a defender of shared values and interests. The story of these institutions is one of ever-present challenges—to secure financial resources and to fend off public and private efforts to silence or control them.”

— Dr. Jane Rhodes, Black Studies scholar, University of Illinois, Chicago.