Got an email today from VTDigger founder/chief executive/editor/reporter/Maximum Leader Anne Galloway. It was a request for donations that included the line “Help us…foster the next generation of journalists.”
Yeah, up to a point. Past that point, successive “next generations of journalists” are running for the hills. Latest example: Statehouse reporter Kit Norton has left Digger with no firm plans for what’s next, according to his Twitter feed. About a month ago, Katie Jickling quit, tweeting out plans to leave journalism and pursue a master’s degree.
Update 7/14/21. According to Mark Johnson’s column in this week’s Seven Days, Statehouse reporter Xander Landen has also left Digger. This adds to the numbers I cite below. And losing both Norton and Landen at the same time is a tremendous blow to Digger’s Statehouse and political coverage. They were smart, effective reporters who’d learned the ropes. Now, other reporters will have to start from scratch.
Which made me wonder how many reporters have whizzed through that revolving door since May 2020, when they formed a union and entered into contract talks. Talks which have seen management stonewalling the union.
So I fired up the Internet Archive and found the VTDigger homepage as of May 27, 2020. That’s right around the time that Digger recognized the union in the face of a near-unanimous organizing vote.
The answer is, yep, there’s been a lot of turnover. By my count of the staff listing on the Digger website, the organization had 12 full-time reporters on 5/27/20. Five are no longer there. (Jickling, Norton, Anne Wallace Allen, Elizabeth Gribkoff, Aidan Quigley), That’s a fair bit of turnover. And every one of those departing reporters was a member of the union.
I don’t believe that Digger is deliberately driving people away in order to break the union, but I do believe that weakening the union is a fortunate consequence of its high turnover. Galloway’s fundraising pitch notwithstanding, many writers flee because they find Digger to be a toxic workplace.
Fostering the next generation of journalists, my Aunt Fanny.Continue reading