Making Headlines: news & analysis of Vermont media

Newsies to hawk Times Argus on sidewalk

Vermont town clerks part of Russian electoral plot? Mark Steyn doubts it

State employee union head bashes Digger over Woodside coverage

by Guy Page 

December 19, 2019 – Extra, Extra,  Read All About It Times Argus plans to hire sidewalk newspaper hawkers! That’s one change in the works under new publisher and Washington County native Steve Pappas, now editor AND publisher of both Times Argus and Rutland Herald. The paper will cost a buck. 

Vermont town clerks join the Russian Election Conspiracy? Not  – anti-Trump cable news paranoia heads hit a new level of JPS (Just Plain Stupid) when Joy Reid of MSNBC last weekend worried aloud that Russia might corrupt the Vermont electoral system to throw a future election to Trump. In response, pundit Mark Steyn told Tucker Carlson tongue-in-cheek, riiight, “last week 37 Vermont town clerks suddenly became owners of Russian dachas.”

Kudos to Rob Roper of  the Ethan Allen Institute for pointing out the decisive moment that ended any chance Democrat Sue Minter had of winning the 2016 race for governor. It was when she praised the Transportation Climate Initiative during a live TV debate, only to have Phil Scott dismiss it as a carbon tax. 

Maybe that political disaster is why the pro-TCI Legislative Climate Solutions Caucus swears it won’t promote a carbon tax this year – a dubious claim dutifully reported without question or comment Dec. 11 by Vermont Public Radio.  

Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) Executive Director Steve Howard and online news leader VT Digger probably won’t exchange Christmas cards this year. At a public hearing earlier this week he savaged Digger for (he said) disparaging state employees’ care of troubled, delinquent youth at the Woodside secure facility.  

VT Digger may not have many fans now in the VSEA, but it is much admired among online news providers nationwide and by Google News. My wife and I attended the Google News Initiative last week, a two-day training in Chicago to help online news platforms like Vermont Daily Chronicle grow readership and revenue. The most popular panelist was a Digger staffer who coined the most oft-repeated phrase of the conference: “we don’t call it content, we call it reporting.”

Uncaring at all levels of Vermont Department of Corrections has long been overlooked by state government and media alike. Editor Paul Heintz and his team at Seven Days deserve credit for lancing this boil and then recording the flow and quality of pus. Note of caution: advocates of decarceration hope to ride this story to widespread release of criminal inmates. Poor care is one thing; wholesale release, quite another. 

The pattern of anonymous social media attacks on critics by Burlington police senior leadership makes you wonder who else is doing it. Are any legislators hiding behind a nom de plume? Not that I know of – but then, how would I?

Enjoyed a guest segment on WDEV’s Dave Gram Show this morning. Subject: after House impeachment, what’s next? I predicted an Elian Gonzalez backlash next November. Remember when Bill Clinton in 2000 deported the six year old boat refugee back to Cuba, to the delight of the New York Times and liberal politicians. Besides being perhaps the last deportation celebrated by the New York Times, it also enraged Florida Cuban-Americans who months  later went 77 percent for George Bush. The rest is history. 

Vermont media generally ignored the Vermont Water Cooler poll showing that only 29 percent of Vermonters support unrestricted abortion. Abortion opponents say such low popular support should make the likely 2022 statewide referendum on Prop 5 constitutional amendment pretty interesting – especially to lawmakers who voted for it this year and will face reelection then. 

Happy trails to Montpelier Bridge executive editor Mike Dunphy, moving to NYC to edit airport magazines. Every issue of the Bridge is an exercise in love of community. May it and others like it prosper.