Editorializing by Photograph, Free Press style

It’s Thursday, which means the Burlington Free Press brings us the weekly excretion from the mind of Art Woolf, Vermont’s Leading Economist On Retainer. Woolf’s column is the usual stuff: a handful of statistics and some shallow speculation on What It All Means.

This week’s subject: statistics that show Vermont has a relatively high rate of people receiving federal disability benefits. He points out that this is a drag on the economy, because thousands of potentially employable Vermonters are sitting on their asses collecting gummint checks. Well, he doesn’t say that, but the implication is clear. He begins from the unspoken assumption that we have more than our share of freeloaders. Not that there might be actual reasons for it, or maybe it’s just a statistical fluke; nope, if we have more disability recipients than average, there’s something funny going on.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. No, I’m writing about the photograph that accompanies the column on the Freeploid’s website. Which, as of this writing, is the featured article on the home page. Screenshot below.

Freeps front page, VWCThe image is a file photo showing a kinda scruffy-looking guy in a red T-shirt holding up a sign. The photo is cropped so you can’t see the full context, but there’s enough to tell me this much:

The photo was taken at the Statehouse. That T-shirt is the unofficial uniform of the Vermont Workers’ Center. When VWC people go to the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers, they always wear that shirt.

So what are you saying, Free Press? That the Vermont Workers Center should really be called the Vermont Shirkers Center? They’re layabouts, spending their days at the Statehouse while collecting disability? They’re lobbying for more welfare, so they can live more comfortably at the taxpayer’s expense?

Or was the photo just a quick grab out of the file, no slight intended?

I’m sure the photo will be taken down without explanation sometime soon. And I’m sure that if the Free Press chooses to explain (which they almost certainly won’t), they’ll say it was a mistake. But this is the kind of thing that makes people mistrust them.

Update, late Thursday night: The image is no longer on the Freeploid’s home page, but it still accompanies Woolf’s column. For shame. 

3 thoughts on “Editorializing by Photograph, Free Press style

  1. Walter Carpenter

    I am good friends with that guy in the photograph. I know for certain that he is no layabout collecting guv’mnt checks every week for doing nothin’ at taxpayer expense. He and I are in more or less the same jobs, but different areas. We have worked together, though. He is, in fact, a damned hard worker who is not afraid to haul wood by hand or lay tar down on a roadway — which is what we were doing — and he’s very good at what he does. Maybe, if that shining capitalist, Art Woolfe, wants to get rid of freeloaders, he should start at the top and work down from there. He would find more freeloaders, including himself, there than in people like that guy in the photo.

  2. newzjunqie

    For the BFP to isolate one individual making them the poster boy or girl for their latest silly smear – this time appearing to serve as an accessory to Art Woolfs’ mangled meanderings – is really really unfair. To exploit a single individual in this manner even if receiving benefits also a disgrace as they are tacitly passing judgement when there is no factual basis but another ‘damn hippies’ generalization.

    And still finding it difficult to believe Mr. Woolf is a professor at UVM teaching our youth.

  3. Walter Carpenter

    “And still finding it difficult to believe Mr. Woolf is a professor at UVM teaching our youth.” I agree.


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