Try again, Mr. Mitchell

One of the great ironies of the Fourth Estate is how they are constantly trumpeting The Public’s Right To Know regarding other precincts, but they just can’t stand it when the spotlight is turned on themselves. For example, the studied reticence of the Burlington Free Press whenever it takes a chainsaw to its already-diminished staff.

Another example: In my four-plus years of blogging, I’ve said plenty of harsh things about almost everyone in political circles. When I meet these folks, they tend to be perfectly genial, or at the very least polite.

Not journalists or editors. When I criticize the failings or shortcomings of Vermont’s media, they often react with a pained squeal. There’s only one person who’s blocked me from their Twitter feed, and it’s a staffer at a certain Vermont newspaper. Once, the chief of a major media outlet took time out of his (or her, I ain’t telling) busy day to hector me for being critical of a certain reporter’s work. I was honored by the attention in a perverse way; at least I know they care.

This is a roundabout way to get at the latest Big Story in Vermont media: the DUI arrest of Catherine Nelson two days before her installation as publisher of the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus.

She bounced her vehicle off multiple inanimate objects in downtown Rutland, and blew a BAC twice the legal limit after being pulled over by the cops.

Er, I should say “allegedly bounced her vehicle,” since her attorney has cautioned us not to jump to any conclusions. Perhaps her vehicle and the objects sustained damage independently from a passing meteor or a ne’er-do-well with a baseball bat.

But let’s get to the point, which is outgoing publisher R. John Mitchell’s oddly inconsistent accounting for his knowledge of the incident.

See, when he announced Nelson’s accession to the newsroom on Monday, he didn’t mention the incident. That’s a real oopsie if you’re trying to maintain a workplace atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. And there’s a big fat contradiction in the Mitchell timeline.

First, he told a Herald reporter that “he was aware Nelson was cited for drunken driving prior to announcing her promotion Monday afternoon.”

Elsewhere in the story, he asserted that “What I know, I read on our website.”

Problem. “Our website” didn’t post anything about Nelson’s DUI until Tuesday afternoon — and only after VTDigger first broke the story.

So, well, if he knew about it Monday, he must have gotten his information from another source. Say, maybe the police? They’ve been known to tip off Prominent Businessmen when their charges run afoul of the law.

He also insists that the incident has no bearing on his views of Nelson or her qualifications for the job. Which, okay, if you say so; but if Mitchell made that judgment based on a scrap of information on his paper’s website, he is a piss-poor chief executive.

Indeed, it’s hard to believe that Mitchell would put his family’s baby in the hands of a drunk driver unless he was fully and completely informed about the facts of the case, and had sound reason to trust Nelson’s stewardship.

At the very least, he could have postponed the announcement. It’s not like anyone knew it was coming. I have to conclude that either he knows a lot about the case and still believes in Nelson, or he has nonrefundable plane tickets to a sunny retirement destination.

Whatever, it’s just one more example of a journalistic enterprise wilting under the same kind of pressure they like to put on others.

For the sake of his family’s shrinking empire, whose very lifeblood is a small cadre of reporters and editors working extremely hard for little pay, Mr. Mitchell might want to get his facts straight and provide a more coherent rendition of events.

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6 thoughts on “Try again, Mr. Mitchell

  1. newzjunqie

    Black eye for a “newspaper” when forthcoming is absent and story buried or better yet – nonexistant. Gentrified & very special VIP treatment — for “alleged” drunk driving of all things — coverup breathtakingly appalling, esp for a newspaper when stories including glossy pics are standard fare. Nice try in dragging it through back-to-back holiday news cycle and onto the weekend news dump folks! Blogosphere wins this one (again). What a surprise and how convenient — a sudden promotion! Soo, now the “real story” becomes…the promotion! Oh and in the T-A/Herald version Ms. Nelson is quick to point out that “I wasn’t arrested”, IOW not one of those common low-brows littering our fine news product we make our living off of reporting. Way to take responsibility ma’am!

    BFP spins at as a mere aside:
    http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/money/2015/12/29/newspaperpublisherstepping/78027502/from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=
    But oh no not drunk driving or leaving accident scene but “suspicion of drunk driving” – move along folks nothing to see here no siree. Nothing in Reformer/Banner or Valley News. Poetic justice for Digger as the one who broke story after Catherine Nelson canned Ms Galloway from T-A and who went on to start Vtdigger.

    Rutland PD FB had nothing yesterday 12/29 and latest posting was 12/25/2015. What – no pics??? Must have broken their heart to get it in there today:
    https://www.facebook.com/RutlandCityPD

    Herald FB has the story buried beneath supposed “real story” of a happy promotion complete with smiling face. We gentry certainly can’t share the page with the three killed up the road in Killington accident or the bank-robber-of-the-month mugshot.
    https://www.facebook.com/rutlandherald

    Times Argus-before it’s safely buried behind paywall:
    http://timesargus.com/article/20151230/NEWS03/151239971
    *crosspost

    Reply
  2. Steve Beck

    The more I read this blog the more disillusioned I am becoming with VT and of course everywhere else on Planet Earth. Where can I go? I have never read the Times Argus, and the Rutland Herald is certainly nothing to write home about. I don’t even get the local Brandon Reporter via subscription, who cares about the Police Log or News From Nifty Thrifty. But I guess that is why people think VT is such a special place to live. Sad commentary.

    Reply
    1. newzjunqie

      News is generally negative. Stories are published of house that burned in 4 alarm blaze or robbed not the ones that weren’t.

      The real news not widely available except through indy media that we are not getting even more depressing.

      Reply
  3. newzjunqie

    Had to laugh at some comments on social media showing Mitchell/Nelsons’ poutraged sycophants decrying story saying it should not have been published. Duplicitous double standard reeks of elitist priviledge. Soo, same news all papers publish routinely should only be published if it concerns we the unwashed?

    In Heintzs’ story which was the best imo, Mitchell oddly quibbled over use of the word “retirement” claiming ‘nothing is changing I’m still here’ ??? So why all the fanfare. Attempt to alter wording a no no and very telling. Ms. Nelson has been running things as CEO and VP so a mere change of titles, on its face really not that newsworthy. Most papers do not report each deck-shuffling which in this business is often yearly or sooner.

    Other details & clear contradictions lead me to believe this to be an obfuscation & face-saving arrangement to sieze ownership of the narrative and spin to their liking. Most ppl are invariably understanding & very supportive when confronted with genuine honesty. Unfortunately anyone with brains esp who owns a newspaper knows this is the kind of story you want to break yourself.

    Reply
  4. Bobby

    Here is an update: Nelson pled guilty this week and was given 12 months probation (you didn’t see this in the paper though). Btw, was it mentioned that she dates one of the biggest heroin dealers in VT AND that she was driving a Rutland Herald vehicle???? These are FACTS! Do the research.

    As long as Judge Zonay is in place, no criminal will ever have to deal with consequences. He lets everyone go free and they all end up running through the obligatory forest, holding hands while singing songs about entitlement!

    Reply

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