The second third of Paul Heintz’ “Fair Game” column delivered a bombshell for those of us who follow — and root for — our dwindling media sector.
The Burlington Free Press has begun to — not once, but routinely — publish bespoke content written by interested parties, formatted and presented as if it were actual news.
Recently I caught one instance of this disturbing trend: the Free Press ran an article on the Q Burke Resort (before it was de-Q’d) — written by the resort’s PR person. It ran as a news story; the writer’s affiliation was not identified until a small note at the end of the piece.
The timing was unfortunate, since the article was published only a few days before the SEC came swooping down on the Stenger/Quiros operation.
What Heintz has done goes way beyond my isolated discovery. He runs down a lengthy list of articles, formatted and presented as news, in space supposedly reserved for journalism, that were provided by interested third parties.
I have often been critical of Vermonters’ exaggerated perception of their own inherent virtue. We’re far from perfect on race relations; there are subtle forms of sexism here that I haven’t seen elsewhere; and, of course, our vaunted reputation for environmentalism is largely due to forces out of our control: small population, not much industry, and lack of exploitable resources. Based on how we’ve handled Lake Champlain, or the damage done when we HAVE had the opportunity to do so (the Elizabeth Mine, the PFOA contamination around Bennington), I contend that if there was a lot of coal under the Green Mountains, we’d be West Virginia North.
But while I contend that Vermont isn’t as special as we think it is, I readily acknowledge that it definitely has its virtues. We have two examples from recent headlines, where other states are pursuing destructive, hateful paths while we quietly handle our business in a positive manner.
Example #1: the Vermont House passes — with broad bipartisan tripartisan support — a bill that would guarantee women’s access to contraception even if that section of Obamacare is repealed.
Example #2: The Agency of Education issues guidelines for supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming students.