Getting defensive

Dear Ace: I was at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar on the Downtown Mall the other day and noticed a free newspaper I’d never seen in Charlottesville before. It’s called “The Virginia Defender.” Can you explain where it came from and what it’s doing here?—Wrights Auf Ender

Dear Wrights, Ace doesn’t know where people get off giving their papers away for free. It just ends up making Ace look like a cheapskate for selling his private investigation newsletter for 45 cents a pop at area yard sales. But he’s got to recoup his home printing costs somehow. A 10-person circulation of A Spy Called Ace doesn’t come free. But back to the publication at hand.

The most recent issue (April/June) of “The Virginia Defender” is technically its first; from 2002 until this spring the newspaper was called “The Richmond Defender.” Before long it might be renamed “The United States Defender” and then “The Universe Defender,” at which point it will get its own Saturday morning cartoon. But Ace does not mean to jest about a publication with such lofty goals: It is written and produced by volunteers devoted to “freedom, justice & equality.” The quarterly “report[s] on and [support]s the struggles of labor and all working people; the Black community, Latinos and all people of color; of everyone in Virginia and beyond who is struggling to survive, to live, to be free.” Ace skimmed the recent issue and discovered impassioned letters to the editor from prison inmates, cover stories written in Spanish, and a first-person account of three adolescent boys being unlawfully arrested outside a Colonial Heights shopping mall. In short, it was 12 pages of journalism advocating rights for the state’s disadvantaged. It’s no A Spy Called Ace, but it does save readers 45 cents and teaches them about social justice. Perhaps Ace should advertise in the next issue.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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