Here’s a new one in Vermont governance: a top state official refusing to “work with” a reporter who covers his beat. Strange but true. And he put it in writing!
Dramatis personae: Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform; and Erin Mansfield, health care reporter for VTDigger. Miller wrote a hot blast of an opinion piece in response to Mansfield’s recent article about the latest wave of problems with Vermont Health Connect, and here’s the opening paragraph:
The most recent exchange story is an extremely slanted piece of journalism. It does not tell the whole story of Vermont Health Connect, accuses me of lying, and creates an inaccurate perception. This particular column follows repeated factual inaccuracies by VTDigger’s health reporter, adding the new feature of character assassination. I give up. I will not work with her anymore.
Digger, for its part, “stands behind the accuracy” of Mansfield’s story.
I don’t know who’s right and wrong here. Maybe she overemphasized the negative, which is often the case in journalism. Non-news is, by its nature, not news. When something works, we don’t write a screaming headline about it.
But Miller’s version doesn’t pass the smell test.
He claims that taking the “change of circumstance” function off-line was planned all along, and that the function is back on line again. He also claims that the administration has been fully informing the Legislature throughout.
Which, if true, doesn’t explain why legislative leaders are pissed off about being kept in the dark, or why House Speaker Shap Smith is near the end of his rope:
“If we can’t make progress in the next couple of weeks on the change of circumstances, I would start to lean toward the federal exchange,” he said.
“Couple of weeks.” That’s pretty damn harsh.
Okay, let’s set all that aside and give Miller the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say Mansfield’s article doesn’t tell the whole story. But to accuse a reporter from Vermont’s most respected public-policy news source of deliberate bias and “character assassination” and refusing to work with her anymore? A reporter backstopped by two of the most experienced people in Vermont journalism, Anne Galloway and Mark Johnson?
That’s a really bad look for Miller.
Oh, and also: he can’t do that. He simply can’t.
Maybe it’s time for Larry to head back to the relative calm of the beer business.