Update: VTDigger publisher says they have been reimbursed by Vermont for Reproductive Liberty
by Rev. Spencer Lemons
After reading the Vermont Daily Chronicle article (“VT Digger admits mistake….” March 23) about VTDigger’s providing free advertising to proponents of Proposal 5, the “abortion-plus” constitutional amendment, I sent the following letter to the Digger editor:
I was disappointed to read in another publication that Vermont Digger admitted to “a mistake” in providing $1000 worth of free advertising to an advocacy organization pushing Proposal 5, the “Personal Reproductive Autonomy” amendment to the state Constitution, and that this in-kind contribution spreading propaganda for a political cause came the day before a key vote in the Vermont House of Representatives. That a news organization would first make a financially significant contribution to a SuperPAC for a political movement it is covering is appalling, and that it did so in a manner specifically designed to influence a key vote in the legislature is nauseating.
Why did I have to read about this “mistake” in another news outlet? If Digger wants to regain any credibility, it needs to own up to this in its own pages to its own readers. Are there other examples of Digger making in-kind contributions of free advertising to political organizations? We deserve to know.
I would hope any story or column about Proposal 5 in VTDigger moving forward would feature a disclaimer alerting readers that the publisher is a financial contributor to the “Vermont for Reproductive Liberty” political action committee.
Editor Paul Heintz responded to me with the following:
Dear Rev. Lemons,
Thank you for writing the letter to the editor copied below. I’m afraid you may have a misunderstanding of this matter. Please see this statement from VTDigger founder Anne Galloway:
As we often do with potential clients, we offered Vermont for Reproductive Liberty a promotion in an effort to secure future underwriting business. This was a mistake. VTDigger’s policy prohibits donations to political organizations or advocacy groups. In the future we will ensure that no promotions are offerd to political organizations, advocacy groups, or candidates of any kind.
We have asked Vermont for Reproductive Liberty to compensate us for the underwriting and they have agreed to do so. Needless to say, VTDigger’s news department had no knowledge of or involvement in this matter.
Sincerely, Paul Heintz
And VTDigger refused to print my letter.
So, to this I responded asking where this statement from Mrs. Galloway could be found on VTDigger’s website, as I still feel strongly that their readers deserved to know of this incident. I cannot find any reference to the event on Digger’s website, and I have received no further contact from Mr. Heintz or anyone else at Digger.
Other questions I have would be, Did Vermonters for Reproductive Liberty actually reimburse VTDigger the $1000? Is there a record of that? What was the value of running those free ads the day before the House vote, and how can that influence be erased? Who made this decision to donate free advertising to a political action committee, and how can we be sure they had no connection with the news department? I sincerely doubt such a decision could be made at VTDigger without Mrs. Galloway’s sign off, and she oversees the newsroom. Can VTDigger assure us that no other such “underwritings” have taken place in the past? If they have, what organizations and causes get this red carpet treatment, and which don’t. Why didn’t Digger make such a pitch to opponents of Proposal 5? Their advertising money isn’t as good at VTDigger?
Rev. Lemons married Catherine in 2009, they have 2 children and moved to Sheldon from the Catskills in 2014. In February 2022 Spencer obtained his pastoral ordination. The Community Home Church in Sheldon started because many churches in the state were recently closing their doors due to the pandemic. Spencer felt the call to have a church that doesn’t close and is a city on a hill, to be light not covered (Matthew 5:13-16), where people can openly worship God.
Editor’s update: late this morning VT Digger Publisher Anne Galloway confirmed via email to Vermont Daily Chronicle that Vermont for Reproductive Liberty has paid for the ad: “We have been reimbursed,” she wrote.