Imagine you’ve been in a coma for the previous month. You come out of it, and one morning you pick up The Washington Post, and you find a story that discusses, in part, the shooting of a member of Congress.
The title of the story says:
In Alexandria shooter’s hometown, rage-filled radio host channels middle America’s inner frustration
Whoa! That certainly sounds ominous. The story starts like this:
It’s not yet 11 a.m., and Bob Romanik, sitting behind the microphone at his radio station in a rundown strip mall in the middle of America, already has said the “n-word” out loud — and on air — at least a dozen times.
Romanik is a surly 68-year-old former East St. Louis street cop. He hates Black Lives Matter and talks proudly about his Caucasian heritage to anyone who will listen. And do they listen. His controversy-courting radio program — he’s the self-styled “Grim Reaper of Radio” on KQQZ 1190 AM — reaches across this region, in and around Belleville, Ill.
The suburban community about 20 miles east of St. Louis drew attention in recent weeks because it was the hometown of James T. Hodgkinson, the out-of-work politically frustrated home inspector who up and left, drove a van to the Washington area, and then shot four people at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria.
There’s a scene in ‘All The President’s Men’ where Carl Bernstein says to Bob Woodward that his opening of a story needs more “clarity.” The first three paragraphs of the story by Peter Holley are clear enough, aren’t they? It’s obvious, right?
James Hodgkinson listened to Romanik, a right-wing racist on the radio enough that he drove to Washington DC and shot up a congressional baseball practice. The obvious next question for a reader is, “Which Democrats at the baseball practice got shot?”
Is there anything else to ask after reading the first three paragraphs?
One might be shocked back into a coma to learn James Hodgkinson was not an angry conservative, but instead was an angry Bernie Sanders supporting, Occupy Wall Street guy who favored watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, hated Donald Trump and who shot up a Republican congressional baseball practice, shooting Republicans, including Republican Representative Steve Scalise.
If the story were only about Romanik and didn’t mention Hodginkson, it would be a run-of-the-mill profile about some local AM shock-jock and a pretty good one at that. It is interesting to see the kind of influence local talk shows have just like local newspapers and local television news.
But what editor at the Washington Post allowed Holley to link Hodgkinson to a right-wing radio talk show host without even confirming he ever listened to the show? Perhaps after seeing this:
The nation was shocked, but Romanik — who seems to delight in launching savage attacks on local politicians and stoking his listeners’ many frustrations about race, crime and government — certainly wasn’t. Despite being a die-hard supporter of President Trump who has perfected the art of the dire populist message, many of Romanik’s biggest fans in southern Illinois are disgruntled Democrats like Hodgkinson.
“I can’t say for sure if this Hodgkinson guy listened to me, but he probably did,” Romanik said in a recent interview. “If people would be honest about what drove Hodgkinson to the point of violence, you’d probably see a lot of people right on the same page with him all over the country. But around here, for sure.”
Disgruntled Democrats apparently listen to right-wing radio talk show hosts and then shoot at Republicans. Got that?
The Washington Post story is a textbook example of garbage journalism. Peter Holley should be ashamed of himself for writing it and whoever his editor is, should be ashamed for allowing it to get published. Strip all the information about Hodgkinson, and it’s an interesting story.
As it stands, it’s a story that attempts to link James Hodgkinson to Bob Romanik as the source of Hodgkinson’s influence for shooting Steve Scalise and three other people in Alexandria, Virginia on June 14, 2017.