Monday, February 12, 2007

Reading Around: News & Views on the Vermont Media [updated]

The clips and tips are piling up on my desk. So instead of pretending that I’m going to get around to making full-fledged snarky essays out of all them, let’s try a new format: quick and pithy. Well, I’ll only guarantee the quick part. The pithy judgment is up to you. Off we go.

Spin Doctors:
Ross Sneyd of the Associated Press penned a great article over the weekend on growing number of spokespeople being employed by the various agencies under the thumb of Governor Douglas. Worse, a good number of them are being plucked from the ever-shrinking ranks of the Vermont media. You know the names: Darren Allen, John Zicconi, Anson Tebbets and David Mace. And, guess what? There’s still an opening for Douglas to fill as the spokesperson for the Agency of Agriculture. I’ll bet Diane Derby – formerly of the Press Bureau and Jeffords’ office – will take a hard look at this job and its $60,000-plus salary. It would, after all, offer a nice, soft landing for her to return to Vermont after several years in D.C. You heard it here first. [Update: Scratch that last bit of speculation. It was half-hearted and, judging by the email responses, ridiculous. But I still think Diane's coming back to Vermont soon, just not to work for a red-statish Republican.]

Funny, isn’t it, that Douglas loves to rail against government spending but can’t seem to hire enough high-priced spin doctors? Health care for all? Nope. Instead, Douglas will hire a PR hack to put out a news release every week to tell us everything’s just fine. Storm water run-off problems? Nope. Not, at least, when you can hire Darren Allen to call in his media favors and attempt to drown out the voices over at the Conservation Law Foundation. And on and on it goes: ignore the problem and spin the people until they’re too dizzy to know you’re ignoring the problem.

Does this method of governing sound familiar? It should. Because this is all right out of Karl Rove’s governing playbook. And the genius of Jim Douglas has been his ability to play by the rules of the Rove bullshit game and yet convince so many Vermonters that he’s really not that kind of a right-wing nut. Well, it doesn’t hurt to hire away the members of the mainstream media who are about to call you on your bullshit.

He’s no dummy.

The “New” Times Argus:
It’s now been two months since Sue Allen bolted from the Free Press to take the helm of the Montpelier/Barre Times Argus. She came in promising more front-page local news and she’s certainly delivered it. Allen has also delivered some nice profiles of local politicos, something that was always oddly absent with past editors.

But I can’t let another day slip away without commenting on what has been Sue’s worst news judgment decision: Front-paging (or even running) the ridiculous article last week about Governor Douglas losing his coat. Yep, right on the front page screamed this headline: “Governor’s Coat Worn Away, Returned.”

Penned by Alan Keays of the Rutland Herald, it was – well – stupid and completely un-newsworthy. If you missed it, it was about the Guv’s coat being accidentally taken by a man who had a similar coat at a Rutland Chamber of Commerce event.

Here’s the not-so-tantalizing explanatory paragraph: “It appeared someone had mistakenly grabbed Douglas’ black overcoat, leaving behind a similar looking one. The problem was the look-alike coat had no identification inside, making it difficult to locate the man wearing Douglas’ coat.”

And on and on it went. Good grief.

What was most galling about this story was the fact that it came on the heels of the Guv’s press conference meltdown. So the media had the Guv on the ropes, ripe for some real juicy news, and they let it all slip away with this silly little story.

Not only was the story a non-story, it was filled with more dopey puns than a whole edition of 7 Daze. Taste these: “coat tales,” “warm ending,” “no cover-up,” and the case has been “wrapped up.”

Enough already.

True North Radio Update: Last week, the Snarky Boy reported on the confusion over whether or not Cabot Cheese was going to bite the hand trying to feed it. Specifically, True North Radio’s Paul Beaudry has been so hard up to at least look like he’s got credible sponsors that he’s been throwing Cabot’s name around as “a sponsor.” Well, that not-so-welcomed plug got many of Cabot’s customers a little concerned that this Vermont dairy company would support the “anti-gay and right-wing nonsense” that anchors much of the show’s content. At first, Cabot got cagey with its responses to those who called to complain about the association between Cabot and True North. But, after hearing from more people who wanted a straight answer, Cabot’s Michael Provost has issued this very clear statement:

True North is a supporter of Cabot through their buy local and dairy promotion efforts, but Cabot is not a sponsor of True North Radio.
Any claims made that we are a sponsor were made in error.

Take that, Paul. Now stop lying about it.

Mowing While Drunk: I was perched on my favorite chair at Charlie O’s last weekend when the news came out that the Castleton man charged with driving his lawn mower while drunk had been acquitted. Yep, the court ruled that it’s cool to tool around while drunk on a machine with sharpened blades. The Charlie O’s crowd gave a hearty cheer to the news – not surprisingly. And one fella who was looking like he’d been there since the day before had this to say: “Shit, I shoulda driven the mower down here.” Oh sure, no one would even notice….

Blog Watch: You gotta love the associate director for membership development at VNRC, John Odum, who also runs the Dem-cheerleading weblog, Green Mountain Daily. Every time he thinks he’s onto a big story, he wets himself with rage over the fact that the mainstream media ain’t paying him no attention. Last weekend, Odum pilfered information from another website and tried his darndest to make it a “big story” for all of Vermont to see. The problem was, most people just yawned – especially the mainstream media.

While there may, indeed, be something to the story, I’m getting more of a kick out of Odum’s little tantrums over being ignored (again). He just doesn’t seem to get it: Blogs are supposed to be different from the mainstream media. And a tiny little blog like his – especially one that is so obviously just a partisan mouthpiece – has next to no credibility with the mainstream media. That’s why, Little Johnny, no one’s paying attention to you and your so-called breaking news.

Speaking of blogger delusion, here’s a quick update: Philip Baruth still loves himself.

And then there’s Peter Freyne. He’s back. While we continue to wish him the best in his battle with cancer, we hope he realizes that since he’s decided to resume his role as the attack-poodle for Sanders, Leahy and Welch, he’s fair game for some criticism. And we’ll start here: When’s the last time you read one critical word by Freyne about Sanders, Leahy or Welch? I mean: one critical word. That’s not “alternative” journalism, Peter, that’s just ass kissing.

Now for my Vermont Blog of the Week Award:
The Deadbeat Club. Let’s face it, Eva knows how to blog. She’s made for it and she’s wicked talented. Thanks for the never-ending entertainment, Eva.