Paul G. Edwards, Gov. John N. Dalton's press secretary, who delivered a stinging critique of the news media yesterday a few hours after he announced his resignation, got some criticism in return from the Richmond press corps today.
"Some of the things he said were rather incredible, although he wasn't specific enough for us to respond to," said John E. Leard, executive editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and News Leader, the city's single-owned daily newspapers.
Leard and other Richmond Newspapers officials were particularly upset that Edwards had held up a copy of the Times-Dispatch during a speech to a group of high school newspaper editors yesterday and had commented, "This paper, I guarantee, is full of errors."
Edwards, who is leaving Dalton's office Aug. 30 to take a higher-paying public relations job with Virginia Electric and Power Co., today tried to downplay his comments saying, "It was a standard speech that I've made a half dozen times before and wasn't meant in any way to be a denunciation of the press."
Edwards said he had not meant to single out the Times-Dispatch for criticism and noted that in the past, he had been quoted as calling the newspaper "a reliable paper of record." He also denied his speech reflected the view of his boss, whose relations with the press have been chilly in recent weeks.
"The entire speech was an experienced newspaper reporter's personal commentary on a profession that he's been intimately familiar with for 20 years," said Edwards, who served as The Washington Post's Richmond bureau chief going to work for Dalton in April 1979.
In his speech delivered at Virginia Commonwealth University here, Edwards had characterized the press as sometimes hostile, biased and incompetent and said news reports were often "filled with error."
When asked for an example, Edwards cited coverage by WRVA, a Richmond radio station, of Dalton's controversial state gasoline tax increase plan that he presented to the General Assembly earlier this year. Edwards said the station has broadcast a "patently false" story quoting state Highway Commissioner Harold King as saying the increase was not needed and then had refused to correct it.
WRVA station manager John Tansey said the station still believes the story was correct. As for Edwards, Tansey said, "I think the man, as so often happens when these people get in high places, they get extremely protective and carried away.
"It puzzles the hell out of me why someone like Edwards, who was said to be a terrific reporter, excoriates the media. I don't understand it."