Hoping for peace, preparing for worst in Charlottesville ahead of anniversary

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Virginia is on alert, newsrooms gearing up on anniversary of race clash

Not again.

After ignoring warning signs a year ago, Virginia has declared a state of emergency for this weekend’s rallies in Charlottesville.

Newsrooms already have geared up with specials ahead of the anniversary of the deadly 2017 Unite The Right confrontation — and reporters are descending upon the Virginia community.

The county government has made subtle changes, such as permitting the closing of certain sidewalks and county parking lots during emergencies. Hoping that it's just a drill, hospitals are staffing up, the city's newspaper, The Daily Progress, reports.

Tom Berry, emergency management director for the University of Virginia medical center, told Progress reporter Ruth Serven Smith, “We’re always talking about if Paris happened here, or if Aurora happened here, or Orlando happened here, or if Vegas happened here.

“Well, now we talk about if Charlottesville happened again.”

The local news site Charlottesville Tomorrow, which focuses on education, land use and planning, isn't "chasing the news cycle this weekend," says executive director Giles Morris, "but we are working and will be on the ground watching and reporting, trying to find ways into our mission-specific coverage areas and also just being community journalists at a special time when we all need all hands on deck to track what's going on."

In an interview broadcast Thursday, award-winning VICE News reporter Elle Reeve talked again with white supremacist Christopher Cantwell, who was imprisoned after his role in the Charlottesville riots a year ago. It was Cantwell's first interview since getting out of jail.

One person who won’t be in Charlottesville is Ryan M. Kelly, the photographer who was on his last assignment of his last day of work for the Charlottesville paper when he took this Pulitzer-winning photograph.

“I was wrestling with that decision earlier this year, but by a coincidence of timing, the decision was made for me,” Kelly, now a freelance photographer and social media manager for a craft brewer in Richmond, told me Thursday. “One of my best friends for more than a decade is getting married out of town this weekend, and I’m a groomsman. So I’m hopping on a plane this afternoon to disappear through Sunday.”

Here are a few of the Charlottesville anniversary features already out, some of them focusing on the change in the past year:

  • Charlottesville violence in 2017 "not just predictable, but predicted," says former FBI agent (Frontline/ProPublica)

  • Heather Heyer's mother picks up her slain daughter's baton (NPR)

  • The Pulitzer-winning photographer’s defining image was of a man sent flying as he tried to save his girlfriend. Months later, the photographer got to shoot the couple’s wedding. (Slate)

Quick hits

WHAT’S WRONG WITH TWITTER?: In a comprehensive take, Poynter’s Daniel Funke examines a social network that has resisted overtures from fact-checkers and blown off a myriad of possible solutions to stem the viciousness and hate coming from it. “Twitter’s inaction,” Funke writes, “makes it look like the company is giving license to would-be hoaxers and imposters.” (Related: Where Facebook stands on free expression)

BANNED BY APPLE (SORT OF): While reaping PR platitudes for “banning” Alex Jones as hate speech, Apple is still profiting from the Infowars conspiracy theorist. In fact, Jones’ Infowars app was the Apple App Store’s third most-downloaded app on Thursday, Vice News’ Emma Ockerman reports. Jones has told fans to download the app or catch him on Twitter.

TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN?: Can President Trump legally ban reporters? Yes and no. Says University of Florida media law professor Frank LoMonte, writing for The Conversation: “Journalists do have a right not to be retaliated against, regardless of what form the retaliation takes.”

A TARIFF’S TOLL: The decision by President Trump to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint has forced already ailing U.S. newspapers to cut pages and staff. Among the papers listed in this NYT report: The hometown paper of House Speaker Paul Ryan in Janesville, Wisconsin; The Tampa Bay Times; The Bryan-College Station Eagle in Texas; The Blackshear Times in rural Georgia. The Jackson County Times-Journal in Ohio has shut down. “When they’re gone, they’re gone,” Janesville publisher Skip Bliss says of small local papers. "They’re not coming back.”

MAKING ARCHIVES SING: The Dallas Morning News regularly plumbs its archives for fascinating features explaining the past. A story this week, a winner, is on landlines and answering machines, by Meredyth Grange. Here’s an archive of these discovered gems.

LAUNCHES: ProPublica announced a newsletter with eight personalized emails it is calling A User's Guide To Democracy. The goal: To make a reader "a more informed, more engaged, more confident voter." ... Motherboard, the tech and culture channel at VICE, on Thursday debuted its critically acclaimed science documentary, "The Most Unknown," on Netflix. The documentary, with legendary director Werner Herzog as an adviser, examines science's biggest unanswered questions. Here's a trailer.

LOCALIZE THIS: New York City has placed caps on the number of Uber and Lyft drivers for a year. Has your community considered the same thing?

TODAY’S EDITING TIP: How can you make a story tighter — and get to the best (or agreed-upon) story length? The LAT’s Steve Padilla suggests changing the margins, making a wide writing screen narrower. The new look, Padilla says, “somehow reveals extra words.”

What we’re reading

UNFAIR: What the Electoral College has in common with tennis scoring — and how both got to be that way. “If you're a fan of losers winning, keep the status quo,” writes Gabriel Allen.

MILKING A STORY?: Apparently, bovine intervention helped police capture a fugitive in Florida. The Washington Post’s Allie Caren, seeking input from all stakeholders, played it straight until the last paragraph: “The cows cud not be reached by The Post to udder a comment. (Sorry).”

On Poynter.org

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Have a great weekend. We’ll be back Monday, with your thoughts on a different Twitter controversy: Should journalists' Twitter accounts be theirs — or their employers?

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