Tag Archives: Adam Silverman

Is Adam Silverman an obnoxious little jerk, or does he just work for an obnoxious little newspaper?

Great Moments In Journalism, courtesy of the Great Journalist who recently Tweetblocked me. This is the first sentence — the first sentence, I kid you not — of an article posted on the Freeploid’s website.

The Burlington Free Press was first to report about the Dec. 10, 1971, disappearance of Lynne Schulze, an 18-year-old freshman at Middlebury College whose case recently has been linked to Robert Durst.

Jesus Christ on a cracker. Joseph Pulitzer spins in his grave. A.J. Liebling farts in your general direction. Charles Foster Kane gives a sly nod of approval.

If that isn’t the most shameless, blatant, tone-deaf example of self-promotion I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is.

According to Silverman, the number-one fact you need to know isn’t the 44-year-old unsolved murder or the new revelations about the case. It’s the fact that the freakin’ Burlington Free Press “was first to report” Schulze’s disappearance, and God damn it, we deserve the credit!

On the other hand… the fact that the Addison Independent was the first to report the possible link between Schulze and Durst?

No, the Free Press doesn’t mention that.


Tweetblocked by a Hero Of Journalism™

Funny thing happened sometime in the past 18 hours or so. Burlington Free Press deputy editor (and Chief Assistant Gannett Cheerleader) Adam Silverman (a.k.a. @Wej12) blocked me from his Twitter feed.

I guess it was only a matter of time; I smack around the Freeploid pretty regularly, and he’s apparently the touchiest guy in the building. So, what finally broke the camel’s back?

Judging by the chronology, it was a series of replies I made to SilverTweets from the Newspaper Association of America “mediaXchange” conference in Nashville.

(Note the trendy non-traditional capitalization. That’s a sign of a desperate industry seeking new-century relevance. Kind of like when big corporations fill their Tweets with millennial slang like “bae” and “on fleek.”)

Silverman was liveTweeting from conference workshops. I couldn’t help but respond to some of them. First, a harmless jape:

After that, Silverman sent a couple Tweets I found darkly humorous. First:

And second:

A little background there. The Free Press is notoriously stingy with crediting other news organizations for original stories. Especially when it comes to Seven Days, which the Free Press likes to pretend doesn’t exist.

Anyway, I guess I stepped on some tender toes. Since then, I haven’t seen any Tweets from Silverman and I just discovered I’ve been blocked. So disappointing; I was learning so much from him about the joyless, soulless state of 21st Century Journalism.

A coward’s defense

Had a little Tweetfight this afternoon with rabbit-eared Freeploid functionary Adam Silverman. I actually came in on the middle of Silverman defending his employer in the face of some critical Tweets from others. Long story.

Anyway, Silverman Tweeted that he was “done taking the BS.” By which he apparently meant the “social media” chatter about the Burlington Free Press “abandoning Statehouse coverage.” Which was the subject of a red-assed Editor’s Note from Mike Townsend, previously dissected in this space. 

Let’s pick it up here, with a question from former Seven Days staffer Andy Bromage and Silverman’s reply.

There were a couple more rounds of this, Bromage asking for specifics and Silverman offering nothing but generalities.

Since I’m part of the social media crowd that’s been slamming Silverman’s employer, I chimed in, pointing out that I’d never claimed the Freeps was “abandoning” the Statehouse, but that they were clearly cutting back. This is what ensued:

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.32.17 PM

Aww, too bad. He “didn’t catalogue it.” So he can’t give a single specific incident. Which means he can deny that any specific outlet was guilty of a false claim, even as he tars us all with his broad brush.

How journalistic.

As for blaming Heintz for fueling “numerous tweets, FB posts, etc.,” well, that’s worse than blaming the Freeploid for the godawful crap that appears in its Comments section. “Worse” because the Freeploid has some curatorial oversight of its Comments, while Heintz has absolutely no control over what’s said elsewhere on social media.

Besides that, Silverman also fails to specify what was “inaccurate” in Paul Heintz’ reporting. Paul’s written a whole bunch of pieces on the Free Press in recent months. But let’s take the single assertion that Michael Townsend was most upset about: that the Free Press was “abandoning Montpelier.” Here’s what Heintz wrote in his piece on the departures of the Free Press’ entire Statehouse bureau: 

It’s unclear whether the paper will maintain a presence in the Statehouse. Tim Johnson, a 16-year veteran of the Free Press who was laid off last Thursday, told Seven Days on Saturday, “There’s not going to be a city hall beat. There’s not going to be a Statehouse beat. There’s not going to be an education beat.”

Heintz didn’t say the Free Press would stop covering the Statehouse. He didn’t even claim the Free Press was shutting down its bureau. He questioned “whether the paper will maintain a presence in the Statehouse,” meaning a consistent daily “presence” by a dedicated reporter or reporters. He then quoted former reporter Tim Johnson saying “There’s not going to be a Statehouse beat,” which is true. The Statehouse and state government will be under the purview of a “transparency/watchdog” team with numerous other responsibilities.

In that passage regarding Statehouse coverage, Heintz was absolutely on the mark. And if his past reporting has been inaccurate in any way, then Townsend only has himself to blame, because he has steadfastly refused to speak to Heintz.

I can understand why knickers are so tightly bunched at the Freeploid these days. They’ve lost a shitload of talent, they’re having to reinvent the newsroom on orders from above, and they are besieged by criticism. Those who remain at the Free Press are almost certainly working harder than they ever have before.

I can also understand why Silverman is so motivated to defend his employer, since he was one of the Golden Four who were exempted from the “demeaning and degrading” reinterviewing process.

But in doing so, he abandoned the tenets of journalism. He and his boss made general criticisms, failed to provide any examples or evidence, and used their lack of evidence as a defense against counterattack.

Freeploid Follies, Weekend Catchup Edition

Things are getting a little sketchy at the Burlington Free Press, Vermont’s ever-dwindling Largest Newspaper. I’ve got several items to report; none merited separate posts, but they make a nice collective bundle.

— Things are worse inside 100 Bank Street than I thought. And I thought things were pretty damn bad, what with almost every news staffer being forced to reapply for jobs and a new era of clickbait-oriented, sales-friendly journalism about to begin. Er, sorry, that’s the Newsroom Of The Future.

But as Paul Heintz reported in Wednesday’s Fair Game column, the pursuit of clickbait is already in progress:

Sources say that editors have become increasingly focused on web metrics in recent months. Reporters are expected to monitor the number of clicks their stories receive on a daily basis and rejigger headlines and copy to boost readership.

Oh joy. Not only are they allowing reader metrics to determine which stories they cover, they’re rewriting stories and headlines after the fact in hopes of goosing the pageviews. That’s gotta grind at the soul of any self-respecting journalist.

And things will only get worse in the NOTF, when a “Content Coach” will be monitoring pageviews and “coaching” reporters who don’t measure up. (“Say, Terri, any way you could mention the Kardashians in that school-consolidation snoozer?”)

— Speaking of self-respecting journalists, remember the Columbus Day tag team Tweetwar that erupted between The Freeploid’s Mike Donoghue and Adam Silverman in one corner, and Seven Days’ Mark Davis and Paul Heintz in the other? Donoghue and Silverman were vociferously defending the honor of their employer.

Well, interesting thing about that. As Heintz reported on Wednesday, Donoghue and Silverman are two of only four news staffers who are exempt from the reapplication process. No wonder they’re singing the praises of the Freeploid: they got a pass, and won’t have to go through the demeaning and degrading ordeal of having to re-interview at their current employer.

— Speaking of demeaning and degrading, ace journalism watchdog Jim Romenesko reports that Gannett is offering opportunities for current staffers to, ahem, adjust to the Newsroom Of The Future. Gannett’s holding a virtual re-education camp with seminars on subjects like: How to perform well when interviewing for one of the new jobs, writing “sharper” headlines, achieving better SEO for stories, using social media to “establish your brand and personality,” and “cleaning your copy.” The latter will be crucial because the NOTF will include far fewer copy editors, and reporters will be expected to submit publication-ready stories.

You know, if by some hellish circumstance I was offered a job at Bank Street, I’d turn it down. It’s sounding like a truly awful place to work.

— Speaking of truly awful, my Friday Freeploid arrived with a big fat section on pink newsprint. The front page bore the image of a pink ribbon, the Freeploid’s Circle-B logo, and the title “Making Strides: Breast Cancer Awareness.” Inside were a handful of heartwarming articles about cancer survivors and people involved in fundraising, treatment, and research.

But mostly, the 32 pages (!) were full of advertisements by local businesses proclaiming their support for the fight against breast cancer.

Nowhere, as far as I could see, was there any statement that any of the hefty proceeds from this special section would go to cancer research or treatment. Nope, it was the Freeploid cashing in on an emotionally appealing cause. And their many advertisers doing the same.

— Finally, an odd note from late Saturday night. Apparently, the Newsroom Of The Future was empty except for the gray countenance of Executive Editor and Chief Corporate Shill Michael Townsend, because Townsend himself was sending out a stream of Tweets about stories on the Freeploid’s webpage. And one of ’em was a real headscratcher.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 11.26.38 PM

That’s odd, I thought. So I clicked on the link, which took me to an article about Entergy’s announcement on Friday that decommissioning Vermont Yankee will cost $1.24 billion.

But WTF is with Townsend’s gratuitous shot at single payer health care? The article has nothing to do with health care reform.

Maybe Mike was sitting at his desk on a Saturday night, Tweeting his brains out and drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Kentucky’s finest. Otherwise, how can you explain this out-of-nowhere shot at Governor Shumlin’s top priority? It was certainly unbecoming for the Freeploid’s number one exemplar of the Newsroom Of The Future.

Here’s a protip for “establishing your brand” on social media, Mike: Measure twice, Tweet once.

One man’s cheap shot is another’s cogent criticism. Or, why I bag on the Free Press so much

Those who follow Vermont media accounts on Twitter may have enjoyed a little Columbus Day entertainment by way of a Tweetfight between staffers at the Burlington Free Press and Seven Days, which the Freeploid has long looked down at, but which has become a powerful competitor in the battle for print advertising.

It began with Freeploid vet Mike Donoghue taking a little poke at WCAX:

This was a reference to WCAX mistakenly broadcasting a crime scene photo including the body of a murder victim, which the Freeploid wrote up at great length. Seven Days’ Mark Davis Tweeted a reply about the ‘Loid “firing cheapshots at WCAX.” To which the Freeploid’s Adam Silverman replied “Is someone from Seven Days really one to talk about cheap shots?”

Davis pointed out the “thinly veiled glee” the Free Press was exhibiting over a competitor’s mistake. Donoghue and Silverman accused Seven Days of ignoring the story, to which Paul Heintz replied that he hadn’t gotten a call back from WCAX.

This exchange included two contraditory Tweets from Donoghue. First, he accused Seven Days of ignoring the story because the two entities are media partners; and then he insinuated that WCAX won’t return calls from Seven Days because of some unstated offense.

Which is it, Mike? They’re in bed together, or they can’t stand each other?

Anyway, that’s when I lobbed a couple of spitballs from the back of the class, and Silverman went all Charlie Bronson.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 11.47.41 PM

I can just see him grabbing his crotch as he hit “SEND.”

Which brings me, finally, to the point of this post: an explanation of why I so often criticize the Free Press. Or, in the words of Mr. Silverman, why I deliver so many cheap shots.

Basically, it’s all about the words of Voltaire, best known as delivered by Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben:

With great power comes great responsibility.

The Burlington Free Press is the number-one print publication in Vermont. It ought to be the unquestioned leader in serious journalism. But, because Gannett keeps sucking out its precious bodily fluids to satiate the endless thirst of stockholders, we’re left with a depleted newspaper that can’t serve its readers well but still occupies the largest niche in the Vermont news market.

It doesn’t occupy that niche in any satisfying way, but there it sits, and because of the structure of the news marketplace, nobody can dislodge it.

The Burlington Free Press has great power. To be charitable, it does an inconsistent job of exercising that power. To be less charitable, it’s an almost daily disappointment. So when somebody like Mike Donoghue or Aki Soga positions himself as a guardian of the public trust — and yet expects to be insulated from the kinds of accountability or transparency he expects of everyone else (including WCAX) — well, it makes the rest of us throw up in our mouths a little. Likewise, when Jim Fogler or Michael Townsend serve up a column’s worth of bullshit and expect us to gobble it down like steak.

Too often, the Free Press comes across as arrogant and condescending. And its performance fails to justify its overweening sense of superiority. That’s why the Free Press gets so much criticism. And the occasional cheap shot. Expect both to continue.