Daily Progress managing editor (and noted blog critic), McGregor McCance, has resorted to online censorship in order to shield from criticism the faltering newspaper’s marginal reputation.

Progress”news” writer Brian McNeill, often biased and inaccurate in his reporting penned a story for the November 20, 2009 edition of the newspaper, which was factually incorrect.

The page A2 article, “Perriello rival unveils pledge to supporters,” begins:

One of the six GOP candidates seeking their party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Ivy, promised his supporters Thursday that he would never raise taxes, would serve a maximum of three terms in Congress and would never add an “earmark” to legislation. (emphasis added)

The article goes on to reference Laurence Verga, the subject of the story, and candidates, Robert Hurt, Feda Kidd Morton, Ron Ferrin, Ken Boyd, and Michael McPadden.

McNeill and the Progress news staff got it wrong. There are seven, not six announced GOP challengers to Perriello.

Jim McKelvey’s candidacy to unseat Congressman Perriello was reported on The Schilling Show blog, Tuesday, November 17 at noon, and later that day on The Schilling Show radio program. WINA news ran the story on-air over the next 24 hours and it appeared on their web site.

The area’s premier daily newspaper appears to be either unaware of or deliberately ignoring news reported by competing media outlets in their own backyard.

In order to correct the paper’s error, and to alert readers to McKelvey’s candidacy, “The Schilling Show” posted the following response to McNeill’s story, on the Daily Progress web site:

N.B. Brian McNeill: Actually, there are seven GOP candidates in this race.

Read about McNeill’s missing man only on www.schillingshow.com

The post appeared briefly on the Progress web site and then it vanished.

Noticing what appeared to be blatant censorship, the following email was sent to Mr. McCance:

From: Rob Schilling
Date: November 20, 2009 10:23:49 AM EST
To: McGregor McCance
Subject: Posting removed from Daily Progress website

Hi McGregor,

This morning I posted a comment to your web site, correcting a factual error in this story: http://www2.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/local/article/perriello_rival_unveils_pledge_to_supporters/49120/

The comment appeared, and then it was removed within an hour or so.

Can you please tell me why the comment was removed and who removed it?

Hope you are well.

McCance responded shortly thereafter:

From: McGregor McCance
Date:
November 20, 2009 10:36:22 AM EST
To: Rob Schilling
Subject: RE: Posting removed from Daily Progress website

Morning, Rob:

We removed the comment here in the newsroom. As we discussed on the phone a while back, using the comments as a vehicle to market or promote some other product is against the terms of the agreement for DailyProgress.com users.

That said, I’ve not been asking our staff to take down comments from you+since our phone talk, until this morning.

We do want to hear from people if we make mistakes. And we want people to comment on our stories online. Including you and anyone else.

But when the underlying purpose is to just generate publicity or attract attention to another product or service, that’s not really a fair use of it.

Lemme know if you need more info.

But McCance, in his haste to defend an inaccurate news story and protect a sloppy reporter, gets the story wrong, himself.

The Daily Progress online user agreement (OLUA), to which Mr. McCance refers states:

MEDIA GENERAL may allow you to upload, post, transmit or otherwise provide content to MEDIA GENERAL Web sites, including, but not limited to, photos, video, audio, comments, articles, blogs, forums and any other such communication in which you provide content to the Web site (“User Content”). You agree that you are solely responsible for your communications and any content you provide. (emphasis added)

The OLUA also contains the following admonition:

Do not use or provide User Content for commercial purposes, including but not limited to the promotion of any specific goods or services;

Managing Editor McCance is well aware that The Schilling Show blog is an entirely separate entity from the radio program, and that it is not a commercial venture. As a news and commentary blog its posts should be allowed under the OLUA.

In previous conversation and in a phone call subsequent to McCance’s November 20 e-mail, he expressed chagrin over the fact that the posts-in-question were “critical” of the paper’s news coverage and that the newspaper often was referenced “negatively” on The Schilling Show radio program—a telling sign as to Mr. McCance’s underlying motives in removing the “offending” post.

McGregor McCance, the Daily Progress “news room,” and Media General (corporate owner of the Daily Progress) have the right to control content on their web site, and there are instances under which inappropriate or offensive material should be removed.

This is not one of those instances.

McCance’s flimsy reliance on the OLUA as an excuse to remove a factually accurate post from the Daily Progress web site is directly contradicted and undermined by his verbal references to protecting the paper’s reputation.

McCance’s censorship of comments, more likely because they embarrass his paper and/or his reporter, is a slap in the face of the 1st amendment and should send a chill down the spine of free speech advocates across America.

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