Arlington Patch did offer a more expansive look at the police investigation, though, and gave readers food for thought with a link to an interesting Los Angeles Times column by Jon Healey. The core of Healey’s take on the Moran video was this:

It’s damning, no question about it. Recognizing as much, Moran resigned from his father’s campaign seemingly within minutes of the video’s release on YouTube.

It does not, however, prove anything about the sort of in-person voter fraud that Republicans are so worked up about. In fact, it makes a pretty good case that you’d be daft to attempt it.

Healey’s take is clear-eyed both about Moran’s behavior and about how provocateurs like O’Keefe play the game and work to create news coverage that amplifies their message. (Closer to home, columnist Jeff Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch also had some astute thoughts on the “fraud” theme.) That’s an important mix, and a useful model to reporters and commentators alike. The Moran and Small cases were two skirmishes; a larger battle may still be coming. As they cover that story, journalists here in Virginia have an obligation to make sure the electoral machinery is protecting every citizen’s vote—and at the same time a responsibility not to get spun by the partisans, and to keep things in perspective.

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Tharon Giddens logged more than two decades in newspapers in Georgia and South Carolina as a writer and editor. He is now living on an alpaca farm east of Richmond, Virginia.