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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Roanoke Times' Reckless Response to a 4th Grader

Imagine your fourth grader gets assigned a project to find out more about a particular state so he decides to contact newspapers across that state asking for help. Imagine he writes a note such as this one that landed across the desk of the Roanoke Times - "I am in fourth grade and my school is in Massachusetts. I’ve been so lucky to get the wonderful state of Virginia. I am so excited to learn more about the Old Dominion state so please help me!

Most of the stuff we use to learn about the state is kind of lame so I want some really cool stuff to learn about your amazing state. Some of the things that would be nice to get is, this newspaper article, little souvenirs, post cards, maps, pictures, general information, or any other items would be useful. Nothing alive or that can rot. Thank you for all your help."

Imagine your nine year old receiving a package containing among other things a Texas Tavern bumper sticker and key chain, a map of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a copy of this column written by Dan Casey.

Just a couple of excerpts -- "I’ve lived here almost 17 years, and it still amazes me every day. I promise that none of what follows will be lame. Or rotting."

"Virginia has only one ‘G’ in it, but there are three Gs that are very important down here. The first two are God and guns. Most people love both."

"Since July 1, Virginia has allowed concealed guns in bars, and just last week our attorney general ruled that carrying a concealed gun is OK in church. You need a permit to carry a concealed handgun, of course, but those are ridiculously easy to get. You can get one even if you’ve never touched a gun in your life."

"The third ‘G’ is for gays. Many people in Virginia do not love them. Unlike Massachusetts, gays can’t marry in Virginia....It’s OK for gays to own guns, though — at least so far."

Can you imagine the posterboard the nine year old can make from Mr. Casey's "help?" Yeah, neither can I. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with Casey's "thoughts," although I do differ with his contention that what he writes isn't "lame" or "rotting." What matters is it's a ridiculous response unsuitable for a nine or ten year old and posting the child's personal information is reckless at best.

How would you feel if your child received this response for a school project? How would you feel if your child was used as a pawn in order for a columnist to write a controversial column? How would you feel if your child's name, school and location was posted in the paper and on-line without your permission? Casey should be glad it wasn't my kid.

I'd be curious to read how other papers across the state and country handled the fourth graders' requests. I'd bet none of them got a lecture on guns and gays. And the Roanoke Times wonders why its circulation has plummetted and many locals say the paper's only suitable for fishwrapping...

fish wrapped in newspaper Pictures, Images and Photos


After "further reflection" Dan Casey contacted the student's teacher before sending his column. This is the teacher's response: "Thank you for contacting me; it would be better if you did not include the article from the paper. I am sure he will appreciate the other items."

Score one for common sense...Now let's hear the child's parents' response.


  1. I have to agree, the column was not suitable for the request. I agree with Casey on the issues but that was not an appropriate forum. It was poor judgment on his part, and I thought rather mean-spirited.

  2. I think Dan is getting a lot of blowback as he should. If his parents contact him he should post their response. He's taking a big chance on their reaction.

  3. Elena, thanks for featuring my column on your blog.

    --dan casey