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Friday news dumps in 2022 are seemingly common in Virginia

A person speaks to a crowd while holding a sign that read "Protect trans kids"
Crixell Matthews
Students at Richmond's Open High School walk out of class in September to protest Gov. Glenn Youngkin's proposed policies regarding the treatment of transgender students. Politicians sometimes release potentially unpopular news items on Friday, hoping fewer people will notice. As in the case of Youngkin's proposal, that doesn't always go as planned. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

There was no shortage of breaking news on Fridays this year. And that might’ve been on purpose in some cases.

In the journalism business, these are often called “Friday news dumps.” The strategy on the PR side of things could be that fewer people will pay attention later in the day, and there might be fewer journalists to report on the story.

“For the PR person, and the organization, you may discuss, ‘OK, this is unfortunate news, bad news. Should we drop it on a Friday hoping it will get buried?’” said Judi Crenshaw, who teaches public relations at VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. “But then part of the equation has to be, ‘Well, if people are smart, they're going to recognize that we waited to drop the bad news. And that will add to the bad news.’"

Crenshaw said that maintaining the narrative is key for PR professionals in today’s media landscape.

“In a non-traditional news environment, someone else will start telling the story,” she said, pointing to social media and “news memes.” These days, according to Crenshaw, the best time to post on social media for views is a Saturday.

Surely some Friday news releases are coincidences. But here are notable pieces of news that broke or were released on Fridays in 2022.

Gov. Ralph Northam pardons Sen. Joe Morrissey

While happening on a Friday — Jan. 14 — it was also the last full day of former Gov. Ralph Northam’s term, a common time to issue pardons. The Northam administration saw the number of pardons — along with the restoration of rights for those convicted of felonies — as a point of pride. But a controversial pardon of state Sen. Joe Morrissey was highlighted in news coverage.

VDOE superintendent reports 'inherently divisive concepts'

On Feb. 25, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow released a report about teaching “inherently divisive concepts” in schools. On the campaign trail, Youngkin used the idea of critical race theory as a catch-all term to refer to teaching students about structural racism creating inequities.

The governor called critical race theory “inherently divisive” in his first  executive order and asked for Balow’s report. Subsequently, the governor’s office set up a tip line for Virginians to report “divisive concepts” being taught in schools before quietly shutting it down.

The takeaway from the report: Critical race theory was not actually being taught in the classroom.  The report also rescinded equity initiatives, which concerned experts at the time.

I-95 snow report

On April 1, the Virginia Department of Transportation released its report on the state’s response to a massive traffic jam during a Jan. 3 snowstorm. The report found that “State agencies collectively lost situational awareness and could not verify the extent and locations of the blockages on I-95.”

Sen. Tim Kaine, who was stuck on the freeway for  27 hours, is still teased about the ordeal at public appearances.

RPD retracts false statements about teargassing protesters

Seven minutes before the beginning of a long weekend on July 1, the Richmond Police Department  tweeted a retraction of false statements it made regarding its actions during 2020’s social justice protests.

On June 1, 2020, officers teargassed peaceful protesters. The  department then tweeted that it was “sorry,” and that officers used the gas because police were “cut off by violent protestors.”

As part of a 2022 settlement, the department also  had to release documents and videos of the incident. A week later, the department said it had successfully foiled a mass shooting, but statements by then-Chief Gerald Smith fell under public scrutiny and caused controversy for months.

Youngkin admin proposes trans model policies for schools

The administration and the Virginia Department of Education did not release its proposals for model policies around transgender students in a press release, but a conservative website wrote about the details on Sept. 16. The Virginia Department of Education didn’t notify Richmond Public Schools of the new policies either, Superintendent Jason Kamras told VPM News at the time.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
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