The Giants of Journalism over at VTDigger got themselves in a spot of bother last Friday, when they posted a commentary by one Aimee Stephenson making a dubious connection between Covid vaccines and GMOs. The piece was quickly removed, and replaced with a note saying that the essay “did not meet VTDigger’s editorial standards.”
The note raises some questions, such as what exactly are VTDigger’s editorial standards when it comes to commentaries? And how did the piece get published in the first place?
I think I know. Digger follows the pattern of print newspapers in publishing commentaries. It’s a way to
give the people a voice occupy space at no cost to the publisher. The editorial touch ranges from light to nonexistent. I imagine the process is something like, “Hey, we got a commentary. Next time we need some filler, let’s run it.”
Example: The Times Argus recently published a lengthy commentary by one David Spaulding, fiercely critical of the T-A and all those “liberal” news outlets like the Associated Press. Their offense? Failing to doggedly pursue the alleged scandal of Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Seriously. “Editorial standards,” indeed.
While Stephenson’s piece no longer graces the VTDigger website, the St. Johnsbury Caledonian-Record has a more… forgiving… editorial standard. It published Stephenson’s piece without blinking an eye, and it’s still there. So let’s take a look at what Digger retroactively decided to kill.
Stephenson finds it “fascinating” that Vermonters, who led the way on banning GMOs in food, would so willingly take a Covid vaccine. Because the vaccines themselves are GMOs, you see. And they are produced by the evil geniuses of Big Pharma, ooooh scary.
Never mind that the vaccines were rushed into service because we faced a deadly pandemic. Never mind that millions upon millions have taken the vaccines without any notable side effects. Never mind that the vaccines are proven effective at preventing the vast majority of illnesses, and lessening the severity of cases contracted by the vaccinated. They are still, in Stephenson’s mind, “experimental.”
OK, so who is this Aimee Stephenson? Well, the Cal-Rec identifies her as holding a Ph.D in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics. And yes, she does. She earned it from the University of Vermont in 2001. Microbiology, as you might have guessed, is the study of bacteria, viruses, and other little tiny things.
But here’s the thing. She isn’t professionally involved in the field. According to her LinkedIn page, she’s been a staffer at the Community Colleges of Vermont for seven years. Her current position is Director of Resource Development, which is a fancy way of saying “fundraiser.” (Her page is silent on her professional activities before 2014.)
Even if she were a practicing microbiologist, which she isn’t, she has no known expertise in pharmaceutical microbiology. Or epidemiology, for that matter.
Besides, we have other evidence of her Covid perspicacity. She was a witness for the defense in the prosecution of Mike Desautels, then owner of a UPS store in Newport who refused to enforce the state’s mask mandate. In her testimony, Stephenson called Vermont’s Covid policies “an endless stream of dictatorial executive orders and addendums.” She disputed the idea that face masks help guard against the spread of Covid. She claimed to have reviewed “about 45 studies” on the question. But…
…she admitted later, she hadn’t actually read all the studies — just their summaries — and repeatedly said she was unfamiliar with studies she claimed to have read.
But wait, there’s more! In April of 2020 she wrote a piece posted by the Vermont Business Journal in which she called on Gov. Phil Scott to ditch all Covid restrictions and completely reopen the state. She claimed that Covid was just another virus that we’d have to get used to. She said that to keep lockdowns in place until vaccines could be developed was a “misguided notion” because we’d achieve herd immunity long before we’d get a vaccine.
There was much more nonsense, but that gives you a taste of the applied wisdom of Dr. Stephenson.
VTDigger’s editorial review of would-be commentators apparently doesn’t include Googling the author — or even searching its own website, because VTDigger published not one, but two stories about her testimony in the Desautels trial. If Digger editors had any commentary review policy at all, they should have been well aware what Aimee Stephenson was all about. Methinks its commentary policy is due for an upgrade.