Well, that’s four and a half minutes of my life I’ll never get back again.
This morning, VPR’s Bob Kinzel delivered himself of a lengthy (by modern public radio standards) piece devoted to a subject that was already in the realm of clear, obvious, unquestioned fact: Congressman Peter Welch likes to work cooperatively with people from both parties.
Everybody knows that. It’s an occasional source of irritation to Vermont liberals, who’d like to see a bit more fire and brimstone from the guy. So why did we need a news story exploring a settled question?
The host’s intro to the piece was all you needed to hear:
Congressman Peter Welch has one of the most liberal voting records in Washington. At the same time, he’s one of the few Democrats to work closely with some of the most conservative Republicans in the House. VPR’s Bob Kinzel has the story.
What followed was four minutes and thirty-eight seconds that added nothing to the above statement. It was one person after another complimenting Welch on his bipartisan spirit and willingness to work with even the most conservative tea-party nutbars in the Republican caucus.
This piece took a great deal of effort on Kinzel’s part. He got quotes from former Governor Jim Douglas, two very conservative Republican members of Congress, and a Congressional correspondent for the beltway publication Roll Call, plus some file tape of Welch at a committee hearing. You don’t often hear that many different people in a single public radio piece.
And for what? To re-establish a universally known fact?
Who came up with this story idea anyway? And how did it get through VPR’s notoriously painstaking editorial process? There was no “news hook” — no current event that shines a spotlight on Welch’s collaborative proclivities.
Plus, it seems inappropriate to send an unvarnished love letter to a person who’s currently running for re-election, for God’s sake. If I were Mark Donka, I’d be complaining vociferously to VPR for broadcasting what amounted to a lengthy advertisement for Peter Welch’s political virtue.
But most of all, it was a complete waste of time for a skilled reporter, VPR editors, and me, the listener.