Yes, Governor Scott, he’s still asking the tough questions
August 11, 2020 – Editor’s note: Gov. Phil Scott made a tongue-in-cheek reference during a recent news conference about being unsure if longtime Vermont journalist Mike Donoghue would be asking any more questions. Many Vermonters tuning in missed the reason for the lighthearted pitch. The back story is radio station WDEV had reported one morning for about two hours the death of Donoghue.
Mike Donoghue spent more than 45 years at the Burlington Free Press as a terrific general assignment, local government, sports, and police reporter. A longtime journalism professor at St. Michaels College, he remains as much of an open government bulldog as when, 38 years ago, I saw him physically block the doorway of the Winooski City Council because it was about to enter “executive session” (closed meeting) in violation of state law. He now writes for The Islander, the longtime community newspaper for Grand Isle County, and other Vermont publications. Under the direction of publisher and Colchester native Tonya Poutry, his reporting and former Free Press photographer Rob Swanson’s outstanding photos contribute to The Islander’s consistent excellence.
For WDEV it was a case of mistaken identity – longtime Central Vermont radio personality Mike Donovan had passed. Donoghue, who throws some of the toughest questions each week at Gov. Scott and his staff, wasn’t going to let him off so easy. Below is a Facebook post from The Islander newspaper’s 7/29 issue about the near death experience – reprinted with the owner’s permission.
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July 29, 2020 – Michael Donoghue has always insisted you need a sense of humor in this world – and today was one of those days.
Donoghue used that sense of humor when a statewide local radio station reported multiple times this morning that the longtime award-winning Vermont journalist was dead.
WDEV – AM & FM radio in Waterbury told listeners several times during its morning drive-time show that Donoghue was deceased.
WCAX-TV even called The Islander newspaper about 8 this morning to try to confirm Donoghue’s death because he’s been a part-time writer for us since his retirement from the Burlington Free Press in 2015. It was news to Publisher Tonya Poutry. She called Donoghue, but when nobody answered she began to wonder.
A call back a minute later from Donoghue stopped the doubt in her mind.
WDEV General Manager Steve Cormier called Donoghue and after assuring him he was alive, they had a few laughs.
The confusion was that it was Mike Donovan, a Vermont broadcasting legend in Central Vermont that had died.
WDEV announcer Dana Jewell did an on-air interview with Mike Donoghue shortly before 9 a.m. to re-assure Vermonters that “The Bulldog” will still be chasing news – and to offer condolences to Mike Donovan’s family.
The calls, texts and emails to Donoghue and The Islander have continued to come in throughout the day. Friends, colleagues, readers, a former Olympic skier all checking in. Even Governor Phil Scott’s Office reached out, but Mike assured them he would not let the Governor off so easy!
All kinds of things flash through your mind when you hear such a report. Obviously the well-known quote by author Mark Twain in London after his obituary was printed prematurely in the U.S.: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Mike was even sent a video of Willie Nelson singing “Still Not Dead,” a song he wrote after Nelson had been reported dead in 2015. Don’t be surprised if you hear Mike humming the tune the next time you see him.
Photo of Mike Donoghue by Rob Swanson, Islander photojournalist
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