Thursday, January 18, 2007

Media Watch

Here’s a quick look around the Vermont media landscape, with more than a few pokes and jabs thrown in for good measure.

It’s clear to Snarky Boy that Darren Allen of the Press Bureau and Peter Freyne from Seven Days have a gentlemen’s agreement to do little more than fawn over our congressional delegation. And to make sure neither has to work too hard, they’ve agreed to divide up the task of making Peter, Bernie and Pat look bigger than Camel’s Hump. Darren Allen has obviously taken on the role of cheerleader for Welch, while Freyne’s carrying the water for Sanders. As for Leahy, well, they’ve obviously decided that he’s already attained God-status so they share in the glow of fawning over him.

I beg to be corrected on this, too. Please, dear readers, scour the words and works of Allen and Freyne and try to find just ONE negative reference to their appointed political lovers. I’ve tried and tried and tried and I can’t find one. Hell, they won’t even quote someone who says a negative word about them. It has, quite clearly, been nothing but fluff, fluff, and fluff from these two.

In fairness, perhaps we should cut Allen and Freyne some slack. They’ve both been going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. Allen, of course, ended his marriage not too long ago and has been frolicking in the juices of new love. Allen moved to Vermont several years ago with his wife, Maria Archangelo, who recently took the strange career move from the Times-Argus to a soon-to-be-republished Waterbury weekly. Ouch.

As for Freyne, he’s been enmeshed in a very public display of life bewilderment for months now. If you don’t believe me, just sit by yourself at one of the many coffee shops Peter can be found perusing and just wait for him to saunter over to you and start spilling his guts out about being lost. But beware: He can’t stand it when you don’t know who he is or don’t fawn over his work.

Both these boys are clearly bored. The Vermont media culture does not allow for REAL reporting, instead demanding the kind of hero-worship that these two can now pump out with their eyes closed. Then, whatever kind of muckraking muscles they ever had begin to atrophy from the lack of use and, next, they just start making everything about them and their relationship to the power elite.

But it’s not very satisfying – for them or us.

Speaking of the Times-Argus, Sue Allen (no relation to Darren) is trying her best to revive the rather lifeless local newspaper. Her first promise to readers was to bring more local news and fewer wire reports to its front page. So far, she’s following through with her promise.

Today’s Times-Argus, for example, has five stories on the front page and four of them are on local matters and written by local authors. Nice. The lead story is on the imminent departure of Montpelier’s Rep. Francis Brooks from the voting side of the legislature. As we all know by now, Brooks is looking to fill the soon-to-be-vacated position of Sergeant-at-Arms at the State House. The current occupant of that position, Kermit Spaulding of hunting law violations fame, is apparently scheduled to hand his job over to Brooks within weeks.

The departure of Brooks from the Legislature means that his seat will be open and Governor Douglas gets to make the appointment to replace him. Imagine how tempting it is for Douglas to stick it to the Montpelier Dems? But he won’t. Not because he doesn’t want to but because the guy’s got very little political capital given that he’s staring at two veto-overriding chambers in the State House. The last thing he can afford to do is stick his finger in the legislative hometown’s Democratic elite.

Sooooo….Douglas will be a good little governor and appoint Montpelier’s Mayor, Mary Hooper, to fill Brooks’ seat. It’s an obvious choice, despite the embarrassingly self-serving speculating by Odum over at Green Mountain Daily who included his wife in his short list of Brooks' possible replacements. For a guy who pretends to be “connected,” Odum is almost always wrong, almost always self-promoting, and almost always wondering why the big media won’t take him and his sophomoric Dem cheerleading site seriously. Hmm, I wonder?

But let’s get back to the Times-Argus. While Allen seems to have a good handle on bringing local stories to the fore, let’s hope she sets her sights on breathing some life into their op/ed page. Let’s face it, the Times-Argus needs some good columnists and some better give and take on these most important pages. Personally, I’d like to see Allen grab some fine writers from across the political spectrum and have them go toe to toe on the important LOCAL issues facing the area. Or, better yet, put some trust in a couple writers to let it rip a couple times with their own columns with no rules other than to provoke and entertain. If they can do it in the sports pages with Jim Higgins – a great addition, by the way – why can’t they do it on the op/ed pages? Just a suggestion. And, yes, I’m available.

And we’ll end this rather schizophrenic look at the media with a delicious look at two headlines that appeared on the same page in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal. On the top of the page, there was this headline: “Companies Trim Executive Perks.” And right below it, there was this one: “Disney CEO Iger’s Bonus, Salary Total $17 Million.”