Note: Mirabile dictu, VTDigger has sent a response to this post. You’ll find it at the end.
Recently, VTDigger pulled an opinion piece shortly after publication because it “did not meet VTDigger’s editorial standards.” The piece in question asserted a connection between Covid vaccines and genetically modified organisms. Digger did not explain what its editorial standards are, nor why they were only applied retroactively.
Well, there’s other evidence suggesting that Digger doesn’t really have consistent standards for accepting opinion pieces. The GMO essay was published and retracted on August 20. The previous day, Digger saw fit to publish, without apparent scruple, an opinion piece advocating for the use of ivermectin — and, God help us all, hydrochloroquine — for treatment of Covid-19. Instead of vaccines.
Update: VTDigger’s response to this post can be found below, but I wanted to note here that the editors have decided to remove the ivermectin essay from the site.
There is no evidence that ivermectin OR hydrochloroquine are effective treatments for Covid. The off-label use of ivermectin formulations meant for farm animals (such as the attractively-named Sheep Drench) has led to an outbreak of poisonings.
Riddle me this. If it’s unacceptable to publish a piece that imagines a vaccine/GMO link, why is it acceptable to run a piece promoting dangerous and ineffective treatments? Given the current situation, I’d say the latter idea is worse than the former. So why is the ivermectin essay allowed to tarnish the VTDigger brand?
There’s also a recent opinion piece calling for the National Guard to be sent to patrol the mean streets of Burlington because it’s such a violent hellscape. Really.
That’s not as bad as the ivermectin fantasy, but it again raises the question of Digger’s editorial responsibility for its opinion pages. Is it a no-holds-barred platform for free speech, responsible or otherwise? Is it a place for editorially curated and at least somewhat factual advocacy?
Digger’s claim of “editorial standards” for its opinion section would indicate the latter. The recent contents of the section would argue the former.
Given Digger’s position as one of Vermont’s leading media outlets, and its unquestionable position as the leading outpost for Vermont political and policy news, it has a responsibility to tell us what its standards are and how they are applied.
And if the real answer is “seat of the pants,” well, Digger has some work to do.
Update 8/30/21 evening. VTDigger editor Paul Heintz sent me the following response:
You’re right that we haven’t articulated or adhered to consistent editorial standards in our commentaries section, particularly as they relate to the current public health crisis. Prior to the publication of your blog post, we decided to review our policies and our recently published commentaries to ensure that we are not putting our readers at risk. In the meantime, we are removing the piece you cited.
This strikes me as a thorough, earnest response. I’m glad to hear that they’re taking this seriously. And specifically, I’m glad they removed the horse-dewormer piece.