The new, tone-deaf, voice of the Free Press

This past Sunday, Burlington Free Press Publisher Al Getler grabbed the keyboard out of the hands of longtime editorialist Aki Soga, and penned an opinion piece of his own.

Bad idea. Because in the process, he revealed himself to be a lousy writer, a shallow thinker, and a doctrinaire Republican.

His thesis statement is that Vermont is in need of a “strong leader” to lift us out of our alleged doldrums. Those doldrums he discerned, Lord help us all, in the collected writings of Vermont’s Laziest Economist Art Woolf. His offenses against logic and his explorations of convenient statistics have been frequently chronicled in this space; if you want to check it out, just scroll down to my search box and enter “Woolf.”

Herr Perfesser’s stock in trade is statistical measures of Vermont’s shortcomings. He rarely, if ever, mentions the many ways in which Vermont is a great place to live, or the ways in which our woes are widely shared across the region or the entire country.

And this is the fragile foundation of Al Getler’s knowledge of Vermont. Sheesh.

“The most startling statistic” in Getler’s mind: Vermont’s Gross Domestic Product is the lowest in the nation. Shocking! Appalling!

Except, well, Woolf failed to adjust the numbers for population. And as Getler admits, Vermont is the second-smallest state in the nation. The only state with fewer residents, Wyoming, has abundant natural resources that boost its GDP. We don’t have that. Nor do we suffer the resultant environmental degradation.

So. Small state, low GDP. A real economist would evaluate GDP on a per-capita basis. But that wouldn’t fit Woolf’s narrative that Vermont is in the financial doldrums.

Getler concludes that Vermont needs a new kind of leadership.

The numbers clearly show Vermont needs to elect a governor with a plan that looks closely at the cost of state government, the cost of living and the cost of doing business.

Hmmmmmm. Sounds like he cribbed that sentence directly from Phil Scott’s campaign website. For a moment I thought he was going to endorse Scott, but then he wrote:

There is no more important time for Vermont to elect a talented, driven and well-prepared chief executive officer than in this election cycle.

And Phil Scott is a lot of things, but “talented and driven” he is not. He is genial, engaging, comfortable. He’s been around a long time and has made many friends and few enemies. He is not a creative policymaker or an incisive thinker. If you’re looking for a driven, dynamic leader, don’t look to Phil Scott.

Still, I suspect we’re going to see a Scott endorsement in the Free Press’ future. And I suspect that we’ll see Al Getler poaching Aki Soga’s turf whenever he feels the urge. Or maybe Aki’s in the process of joining virtually all of his former colleagues in the “former Free Press staffer” category, and Getler is phasing himself into the editorial chair.

Which will make an already dismal paper even worse. Let’s conclude, just for shits and giggles, with a child’s treasury of Bad Al Getler Verbiage, all verbatim from this single essay.

In January, Woolf reported that the Census Bureau reported that there were 626,042 Vermonters on July 1, 2015.

Woolf reported that somebody else reported. And now Getler is reporting that Woolf reported that somebody else reported. Now, that’s journalism!

The most startling statistic is Vermont’s Gross Domestic Product (GPD).

GPD? Really?

Vermont’s future is starting to look even scarier given that the approximately 626,000 residents are made up of an aging population.

Guhhhhh. Is Al Getler smarter than a third grader? Perhaps not. Here’s Exhibit B.

The almost yearly exercise of a Legislature that creates revenue by taxing an already strained Vermont population and business base will drive Vermont further into a statistical hole.

That looks like something a middle-school student would write while desperately trying to attain the minimum word count.

Since history tells Vermonters tend to stick with the governor they elect for a while, voters should be doing their homework despite the summer vacation.

Sorry, Al. That’s not a sentence.

They need to bring the best candidates forward for the general election in November that ultimately produces a governor of action and new ideas.

Nope, that’s not a sentence either.

This is the steward of the Burlington Free Press’ future.

Me, I’m thinking about canceling my subscription.

6 thoughts on “The new, tone-deaf, voice of the Free Press

  1. Doug Hoffer

    Mr. Getler said, “Vermont cannot continue to dwell at the bottom of statistical lists.”
    In all cases, 1st is best.
    20th Median household income (1st is best)
    19th Median family income
    12th Poverty
    6th Workers lost to foreign competition (flip side of being small)
    34th Per capita GDP
    39th Change in per capita GDP 2010 – 2015 (NH was 34th)
    And don’t forget the stats on health and safety where we are at or near the top. Furthermore, many stats reflect regional effects beyond our control. For example, Vermont has comparatively high electric costs, but we’re the second lowest in New England. We have serious problems, but they are not unique to Vermont. A simplistic view of our policy choices (cut taxes & spending) is a disservice to readers and voters. Of course we need to be more efficient and effective, but the real issue is how and where we invest for the future.

  2. Steve Arrants (@SteveArrants)

    I haven’t read an issue of the Free Press since before they went to the new tabloid format. I get the advertising bundle in the mail at the end of the week. That’s often more valuable than the paper itself. Occasionally there is a good investigative piece. But then they crap all over things with the paid content from advertisers masquerading as news. Sad. There are some good people working there. But I go to Digger, Seven Days, and broadcast for news these days.

  3. James Mason

    I guess when all you’ve known for your entire life is Boston, New York, and New Jersey, Vermont can be a “scary” place.

  4. Walter Carpenter

    “is a disservice to readers and voters.”

    Not to mention scaring them with nonsense. It is usually easier to frighten than to offer constructive criticism or analysis and this is that that editorial is doing. It’s a shame how bad the Free Press has got over the last few years. I suspect that they will not be around much longer.

  5. Wallace Nolen

    The news media industry in general such as the Times Argus/Rutland Herald dropping from a 7 day a week paper to a 4 day a week one and the declining size of almost every “paper” demonstrates that these organizations desire to cut their costs and at the same time raise subscription and advertising rates that encourages a decline in readership and advertisers.
    Then when coupled with slanted and/or poorly researched articles where readers must do the own research to verify the facts in such stories, what is the news media industry doing right any more?

  6. Brooke Paige

    While print media is quickly reaching the “death rattle” stage, John you will still need to line the bird cage and have something to wrap the fish, however I guess you could pick up what you need at the recycling center – Problem Solved, cancel that subscription !


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