Media Bias: news coverage of Article 22 ignores critics

Unfair, biased coverage, Good Government lawyer says

by Guy Page

With ballots landing in voters’ mailboxes, the final push is on from both proponents and opponents of Proposal 5 (aka Article 22), the constitutional amendment that would make abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy a constitutional right in the Green Mountain State. But opponents of Proposal 5 are calling foul that Vermont’s largest media outlets are putting a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of the pro-abortion side.

On September 26, Norm Smith, an attorney working with Vermonters for Good Government, contacted Vermont Public (formerly VPR) about a program on Proposal 5 that scheduled three pro-abortion activists, and zero from the other side. Smith’s email reads,

“Why are you having such a one-sided presentation? The panelists will all clearly be pro Article 22 individuals… Vermont Public purports to be fair and unbiased. Clearly, you are not opening up discussion and including individuals who are opposed to Article 22. Vermont Public’s objectivity in this matter is clearly compromised.”

Matthew Smith of Vermont Public replied with a defense of their decisions regarding guests, concluding, “I feel our guests are equipped to speak to the medical and legal questions most callers and questions will bring up. If you have concerns about the amendment or questions we could pose to our guests, please do send them along or call during the show tomorrow.”

A moderately polite blow off. Norm Smith’s request that a similar panel show featuring only Proposal 5 opponents has as of this writing gone unanswered.

“What those [Vermont Public] panelists are equipped to do,” Smith said, “is deflect the hard questions, assuming any are actually asked, about the real problematic issues with Proposal 5, both from a Pro-Life and a Pro-Choice perspective. The fact that it makes late term abortion a right, which around 90% of people oppose, and the fact that the vague open ended language that could open the door to far more controversial issues that even the Proposal’s supporters can’t agree upon or explain.”

Meanwhile, on September 28, WCAX ran a 7 minute 11 second story, which is about three times longer than the average news segment, on Proposal 5 that was essentially a reading of pro-Proposal 5 talking points by the reporter and allowing two Proposal 5 supporters to defend their position – again without allowing anyone from the other side to present their case.

It is also worth noting that back in February, VTDigger, Vermont’s largest on-line news provider, made a $1000 in-kind contribution in free advertising to a pro-Proposal 5 PAC the day before the House of Representatives voted to advance the measure. Although when publicly called out on this fact, Digger called the contribution a mistake and the PAC eventually paid for the advertising, “It does expose a mindset,” said Vermonters for Good Government Executive Director Matthew Strong.

These latest news stories come at a time when pro-Proposal 5 activists and politicians are backing out of debates with those who hold opposing points of view. Senators Ruth Hardy (D-Addison), Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden), and Representative Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington) had all agreed to participate in either public forum discussions or media debates with opponents of Proposal 5, only to withdraw.

Representative Anne Donahue (R-Northfield), who is also a spokesperson for Vermonters for Good Government, said, “The arguments in favor of Proposal 5 don’t hold up to scrutiny, and it’s becoming clear to the people pushing it that this is the case. This is a Constitutional Amendment we’re talking about, not a law that can be easily repealed or amended if serious flaws in it become immediately apparent, or somewhere down the road. The media has a responsibility to try to knock as many holes in this as possible. If the arguments in favor hold up, so be it. But if they don’t – and in the case of Proposal 5, they don’t – Vermont voters deserve to know just how flawed and problematic the thing they are being asked to vote on is.”

Categories: Media

20 replies »

  1. I sent the following to ‘VT Public’ on this same topic.

    To: Listener Comments
    Subject: Contact VPR: Article 22

    subject:Article 22

    details:Vermont Public reported this morning that Article 22 (The Vermont Right to Personal Reproductive Autonomy Amendment) prevented government intervention into the reproductive rights of women. Clearly, VT Public’s staff haven’t read Article 22, which reads, in part, that:

    “…the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course … shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest…”.

    Excuse me. “…unless justified by a compelling State interest…”?

    Please look into the legal precepts of a ‘Compelling State Interest’ and ‘Strict Scrutiny’.

    If Article 22 does anything, it eliminates a woman,s “personal reproductive autonomy”.

    To which:
    Amy Zielinski (she/her)
    Audience Services Specialist
    Vermont Public

    Hello Jay,

    Thank you for reaching out. I have shared your comments with our news editors. They informed me that Article 22 has been a topic of active conversation in the newsroom so I expect there will be more reporting on it in the coming days.

    Be well,

    P.S. Love the ‘pronouns’.

    • P.P.S. The progressive/liberal ‘word salads’ reflected on public radio are shameless. I listened this morning to Steve Inskeep characterize the Ukraine election, held by Russia in the annexed territory, as a ‘largely discredited referendum’.

      Conservatives should stop using the in-your-face descriptors like ‘stop-the steal’ and counter the oft used ‘big lie’ moniker put forth by public radio, instead referring to the 2020 election as the ‘largely discredited referendum’, a claim that, in itself, has yet to be ‘discredited’.

      • Conservatives SHOULD do what you recommend and MUCH more – but they won’t. Trump collectively called these corrupt, self-serving egomaniacs “the swamp” for good reason.

        Even if they retake the Senate (and of course the republicans are the lesser of two evils here) – expect the typical lackluster, sheepish, nonchalant performance they have exhibited for decades now with no major changes, no impeachment for those who have flagrantly violated our Constitution, no border wall rebuilding, – NOTHING that might somehow or someway “compromise” their chances for retaining power come 2024. And then the cycle repeats itself.

        On the regional level? The VTGOP continues to tippy toe making “nice” as though boys in girl’s restrooms & locker rooms & athletic teams is completely normal and prosecutors who refuse to prosecute (like SARAH GEORGE) creating a danger to the public at large & destroying Vermont’s once lucrative source of revenue – TOURISM – is no big deal. Again, WHERE are VTGOP’s LAWSUITS??? WHERE is the vocal OUTRAGE from this organization which repeatedly asks you for donations??? WHERE are the P.S.A.’s & the campaign ads from VTGOP? Just remember…never state ” Let’s Go Brandon” according to this organization… isn’t “nice”.

        You know what’s not “nice” either? Infringing upon my rights to freedom of speech and repetitively VIOLATING Constitutional LAW with impunity.

        Let’s Go Brandon!

    • Clarification: The P.S. above, ‘Love the ‘pronouns’, is my interjection – not Amy Zielinski’s.

  2. Re: ‘It is also worth noting that back in February, VTDigger, Vermont’s largest on-line news provider, made a $1000 in-kind contribution in free advertising to a pro-Proposal 5 PAC the day before the House of Representatives voted to advance the measure.’

    If this is true, VDC, it’s time to submit a complaint to the IRS demonstrating that Digger is breaching its 501 (c) 3 requirement to remain non-partisan.

    • And again I ask: WHERE is the LAWSUIT brought forth by the VTGOP against VTDigger?????????????? For just starters……

  3. The individual above states VPR (Vermont Public) purports to be fair and unbiased? Since when? PBS is government-sponsored propaganda channel along with networks such as MSNBC, CNN, & the once termed “big three” amongst many others. Print media that essentially shuts down political/social/religious opposition locally includes the Bennington Banner – which would NOT even PUBLICIZE notices of republican debates sent to their offices that were taking place within the county this year!!!

    Again, unless & until the PEOPLE of VT & the USA stop acquiescing to this abhorrent violation of freedom of speech/expression, this continues unabated. In the incident above, the Bennington County Republican Club refused to take ANY action with regard to their debate notices being ignored, instead claiming “Oh…they do this kind of thing all the time”.

    Well, that is EXACTLY why we are now in this predicament and exactly how we are in imminent danger of losing our state and this nation. Assemble. Confront. Always.

  4. It seems to be a tactic across the board, politically, to not debate your opponent if you think you are ahead in the polls and can only decrease your standing if you debate.

    This is similar to VTDigger no longer accepting comments on their articles because they got hammered by conservatives which, in turn, changed peoples minds.

  5. Just watch Vermont hospitals try to stick to their “purported” self-imposed policies of not performing abortions after 22 weeks or so after unlimited abortion becomes enshrined in the Vermont Constitution under Article 22. Come on …when it’s a constitutional right….. you know the hospitals can’t dictate….who gets to make the decision…. Girls changing room hits the fan!

  6. I had to laugh when someone stated the Vermont Public was unbiased. When I travel around the state, the only channel available on the radio is NPR or Vermont Public. I would rather chew toothpicks than listen to either one. The radio personalities are chosen for their liberal slant and the stories are all heart wrenching and designed for the feeling audience. This is the debacle that allows Vermont to stay liberal. The press is supposed to be the watchdog of the state or nation. In Vermont, the press is the lapdog for all things progressive. All of these organizations should be sued for their licenses. If they can’t be fair, they shouldn’t be allowed to function as news. Propaganda is not news. Vtdigger is still in pursuit of the truth, but they can never seem to find it unless it supports their liberal slant. Everything conservative or republican is at a disadvantage due to the lapdog media censoring the news by omission.

  7. media and government work hand in hand today and in Vermont that certainly means a liberal bias. that public money goes to support this propaganda is another issue. media has no interest in presenting both sides

  8. Immediately after WCAX reporter Christina Guessferd’s article, I sent an email to News Director Darren Perrin, with whom I have always had a good relationship, asking if they planned to present the other side of the issue. No response to date.

  9. I agree 100% that most media in Vermont is biased (and egregiously so).

    I submitted an article on abortion entitled “The Abortion Debate Earns a Grade of Incomplete” to VT Digger.

    It included amongst other content the following:

    (1) a discussion of the biology by which a fertilized egg (ovum) becomes a human being,

    (2) developmental stages of fetal-embryonic growth as a function of time (a miniature human being has been formed by 10 weeks post-fertilization, although unable to survive outside the mother’s uterus at this point in development)

    (3) the more than 10 different approaches or devices to prevent contraception when not desired that have a greater than 99% efficacy,

    (4) the reality that in many states and in many insurance programs said contraception devices are either free or available at low cost, and

    (5) that according to a recent publication by the CDC, about 30% of women (equal to ~20 million women) who are of reproductive age and sexually active are using no contraceptive devices or approaches (obviously their partners are equally responsible).

    The first response from the VTDigger editor was it was longer than what they request… and this was true. BUT a few days after that response a longer Commentary (than mine) was published by Digger!

    Then the editor said there was a long queue and they had many submissions on the topic of abortion. The reality, however, is none of what I have seen published on the issue of abortion on Digger includes any of the content that I presented in my Commentary. I may be biased but I believe the content I detail above is very much essential to informed voting on Article 22.

    I am led to conclude that VTDigger is not committed to “inclusivity”, especially when submissions do not align with its own moral compass… OR that of its donors.

    Note that my Commentary was published by the Vermont Daily Chronicle with a modified title :

    A last point: when Article 22 was originally discussed in the Vermont House, the Chair of the responsible Committee, Ann Pugh, allowed 2 minutes—-120 seconds for citizens to express their opinion.

    120 seconds to comment on a process (the creation of a new human being) that took more than 60 million years of mammalian evolution to perfect!

    What a tragic commentary on the legislative process in the State of Vermont.

    • Gerry, Contact the editors of these “newspapers” and communicate with them DIRECTLY! If they still censor you, communicate directly with the publisher. If that doesn’t work and they still refuse to allow you to be heard let them know you are taking it to the legislature (yes, I know, I know, they are mostly bleeding-heart phonies up there) and contact at least a couple of the republican legislators in VT & request that they assist you! Worst case scenario – they will direct you as how to proceed and if you pursue it – it will get published.

      Do NOT let them silence you!!!!!!! PLEASE work to see to it that your points (above) be seen & heard. I’ve been where you find yourself, and these anti-free speech goons are banking upon you walking away so they can continue to FIX elections the way their idols do at Facebook & Twitter. We must ALL fight fire with fire!

      You still have time! Keep up your very, very important work & call to duty. Thanks, Gerry.

  10. Balanced news coverage by the Vermont media is rarely found. Vermont Public and WCAX are prime example. And the strongly biased reporting on Prop 5 / Article 22 is abundantly apparent.

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