Tag Archives: Aki Soga

The new, tone-deaf, voice of the Free Press

This past Sunday, Burlington Free Press Publisher Al Getler grabbed the keyboard out of the hands of longtime editorialist Aki Soga, and penned an opinion piece of his own.

Bad idea. Because in the process, he revealed himself to be a lousy writer, a shallow thinker, and a doctrinaire Republican.

His thesis statement is that Vermont is in need of a “strong leader” to lift us out of our alleged doldrums. Those doldrums he discerned, Lord help us all, in the collected writings of Vermont’s Laziest Economist Art Woolf. His offenses against logic and his explorations of convenient statistics have been frequently chronicled in this space; if you want to check it out, just scroll down to my search box and enter “Woolf.”

Herr Perfesser’s stock in trade is statistical measures of Vermont’s shortcomings. He rarely, if ever, mentions the many ways in which Vermont is a great place to live, or the ways in which our woes are widely shared across the region or the entire country.

And this is the fragile foundation of Al Getler’s knowledge of Vermont. Sheesh.

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The easiest political question of the day

Huh. Aki Soga has a new job title.

The former editorial writer for the Burington Free Press, and pretty much the Last Man Standing after a series of newsroom purges, is apparently now the Free Press Reader Engagement Editor.

Hock. Choke. Cough. [drinks glass of water]

Sorry, I always puke in my mouth a little when I see one of these new-agey media job titles.

Anyway, Mr. Soga posted a piece this afternoon, posing the musical question…

Is Vermont John Kasich’s Super Tuesday firewall? 


I suppose I should explain a bit.

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A little shameless, and ironic, self-promotion by the Freeploid

Okay, so the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza puts out a list of the best political reporters in each of the 50 states. He describes the list as a combination of reader recommendations and his own knowledge. It’s fair to assume that the farther away he gets from Washington, the more dependent he is on his readers.

Take Vermont, for instance. Cillizza’s list was sadly incomplete and, in two instances, ironically off-target.

He names four reporters. Paul Heintz of Seven Days; no problem there. Kyle Midura of WCAX; he does a fine job by TV standards.

The other two: Mike Donoghue and April Burbank of the Burlington Free Press.


Nothing against either of them; they’re perfectly cromulent reporters. However…

— Neither is primarily a political reporter. Both are on the Freeploid’s vaguely-named Accountability Team. The Free Press draws heavily on the Associated Press for its political coverage.

— It was only a couple months ago that the Free Press jettisoned its political reporters, Terri Hallenbeck and Nancy Remsen. Both would be better choices for Cillizza’s list than Donoghue and Burbank.

The thickly-laden irony isn’t stopping the Free Press from celebrating its dubious honor. Three Freeploid functionaries have Tweeted the big news; here’s one of them.

Nice, Aki. I’m sure your former colleagues are sharing a bitter laugh.

As for Cillizza, he clearly doesn’t know much about Vermont media. He completely ignores VTDigger and VPR, two of the three best outlets for state political news. The Digger diss isn’t surprising, since he named it the Best Political Blog in Vermont two years ago. Small problem there: VTDigger isn’t a blog. It’s a professionally staffed news operation.

Cillizza does acknowledge the possible incompleteness of his list, and he has added people to it since he first posted it. I’ve sent him an email with my suggestions, and perhaps he’ll include them.

My top three noms: Anne Galloway of VTDigger, Peter Hirschfeld of VPR, and Neal Goswami of the Vermont Press Bureau. If I expanded things a bit, I’d include Dave Gram of the AP, Stuart Ledbetter of WPTZ, Bob Kinzel of VPR, and Mark Johnson of WDEV. Mark doesn’t report as such, but his daily radio show is the best single platform for discussion of state politcs and policy.

On the subject of Vermont’s true Best Political Blog, modesty forbids me.

Freeploid Follies: Sunday Funday edition

So, what’s up with Vermont’s Largest (But Rapidly Shrinking) Newspaper? Rather a lot, really. As we await the likely post-Election Night bloodletting at the Freeploid, there are several items worthy of note…

— Today’s front-page article on the race for Governor, which features a passel o’Jes Plain Folks articulating their views on the Milne/Shumlin contest. And I do mean “Milne/Shumlin,” because once again, just like the ‘Loid’s poorly-written endorsement editorial, there was no mention whatsoever of Dan Feliciano. Well, he was mentioned at the end of the article, in a list of all seven candidates for Governor. Yep, Dan the Libertarian Man was lumped in with the Emily Peytons and Cris Ericsons of the world.

Now, I don’t think Feliciano’s getting much more than 5% of the vote, maybe even less. But he’s a credible candidate, and he deserves more consideration than the Freeploid is offering him. The endorsement editorial, which had no room for poor Dan, managed to set aside an entire paragraph for Peter Diamondstone of all people. You’d almost think the Freeploid was trying to give a helping hand to the Republican Party by banishing Feliciano from its pages.

— An editorial in today’s paper touched on a subject near and dear to the Freeploid’s heart: transparency. It slammed South Burlington city government for refusing to release information about filling a vacancy on city council. In the process, editorial writer Aki Soga twice mentioned the name of the interim Councilor.

And spelled it two different ways. “John Simson” and “John Simon.”

In consecutive paragraphs.

From which I conclude that the Freeploid wants the process to be open… but couldn’t care less about who’s actually on the council.

— Today’s Freeploid (for those who get home delivery) came wrapped in a plastic bag, as usual. But it wasn’t the normal transparent bag; it was a shiny plastic advertisement for the new LL Bean store opening next weekend in Burlington. Funny thing: it was only a week or so ago that the Freeploid ran an article about the upcoming opening of the Beanery.

I fully anticipate that we’re going to get an article on Friday or Saturday about the grand opening, with comments from grateful shoppers about the legendary outfitter (whose clothing, like Orvis’, has slipped in quality of late) finally coming to the Queen City. And if such a story does appear, it’ll be the last piece of a nice little News/Sales/News sandwich. Right in line with the Newsroom of the Future’s intentionally blurred line between editorial and advertising.

— What do you do when you plan to cover a protest and nobody comes? Well, if you’re the Freeploid, you run a big fat story anyway. On Wednesday, the ‘Loid ran a piece on one woman’s fight to save a cottonwood tree that’s in the path of a new bikeway on Burlington’s waterfront. She’d chained herself to the tree, and was collaring passersby in a (mostly failed) effort to solicit their support for her cause. On Saturday afternoon there was supposed to be a rally on her behalf…

… and only two people showed up. But the Freeploid had sent a reporter — a rare thing on weekends — and they were bound and determined to get a story out of it. And they did: a two-page opus about the non-protest, containing pretty much the same information that was in the Wednesday story. One woman wants to save the tree, hardly anybody else cares, and it has to come down to make way for the bike path. Sorry; we can’t save every tree.

— Finally, we note with regret the disemployment of veteran Freeploid reporter Tim Johnson, the second to be given the ziggy in the Newsroom of the Future era. As we’ve said before, we fully expect a parade of departures — voluntary and otherwise — as soon as Election Day is safely in the books.


Aki Soga takes a stand

In this day and age, it takes some courage for a newspaperman to criticize his readers. But that’s just what Aki Soga did on the Sunday Freeploid’s editorial page.

The Burlington Free Press’ website has been something of a toxic waste dump this week — in particular, the comments below its stories about Vermont possibly playing host to some of the thousands of children who have crossed our southern border and overwhelmed the Border Patrol’s ability to house them and process their cases.

The comments have been full of ignorance, rage, and hysteria. They accused “our crazy politicians” of “flooding the country” with illegal immigrants. They rant about the cost to taxpayers of housing them “forever,” which is a lie. They say the children aren’t children at all, but are drug mules and gang bangers. There were calls for “taking care of our own” first, which is rich considering what these geniuses probably think of social service programs in general.

There was enough bile and hatred that Aki Soga felt compelled to write an editorial entitled “Rise Above the Ugly Immigration Rhetoric,” upbraiding those commenters and making the case for humane treatment. For which I say, good on ya’, Mr. Soga.

At issue is the federal government’s request that Vermont consider housing up to a thousand immigrant children on a temporary basis. And, as Soga states in the third paragraph of his editorial:

The immediate reaction, coming mainly online in response to a Free Press story published Wednesday, dredges up the worst stereotypes while exposing a stark lack of understanding of the situation.

There is nothing to support claims by some opponents that the unaccompanied minors are gang members or have ties to terrorists. There are no reports of the children posing a serious public health threat.

To the commenters’ call for turning the kids back at the border or immediately deporting them without a hearing, Soga points out that the problem is “largely due to a 2008 law targeting human trafficking — passed with bi-partisan support and signed by President George W. Bush. The law requires children from Central America be given an immigration hearing before they can be returned to their home countries.”

He closes by calling for “level heads” and rejects “fears driven by ignorance of xenophobia,”  and asserts that “Vermonters are better than that.”

And how did the Freeploid commentariat react to Soga’s appeal to reason? Let’s check the comments.

“Joey Miller,” citing a post on the far-right-wing Judicial Watch, invokes the spectre of gangs and drugs:

Bringing a thousand “children” — many if not most of whom will be teenagers — from the most gang-infested murderous communities in the Americas into a small rural state with a serious heroin problem developing WILL result in a significant influx of gang violence here.

“Rich Celia” opts for the simple and straightforward:

Send them back.

“Bill Sprano” cites his standard of justice — which conveniently ignores the 2008 law — that’s LAW — requiring a hearing before deportation. And also ignores the fact that these children aren’t in the country illegally; they presented themselves at the border and were taken into custody according to, ahem, the law. But don’t let that stop Mr. Bill.

…these people are entering the country Against Our Laws! and they are aware it is against the law. This makes them Criminals by definition.

… Crime is Crime and we need to stop pussyfooting around the immigration issues and close the border with whatever force required, and send back as quickly as possible every illegal immigrant we can.

“Tim Vincent” seconds Mr. Sprano’s screed, and adds,

But you know…..It’s not about the law, it’s about creating more Democrat voters.

Yeah, because Obama’s big plot here is to assimilate all these children and turn them into freeloading, welfare-loving Democrats.

And Mr. Smook Banng (which is not at all a pseudonym) makes the rhetorical leap from temporary housing to permanent residency:

what… if hundreds of children came to Burlington, they end up staying for years (or longer), have to be enrolled in the public schools, and the school system needs to hire hundreds more employees to handle all the non-English learners? At what point do you become sympathetic to the plight of the taxpayers[?]

“Hundreds more employees”? At the very most, Vermont would provide temporary housing for no more than 1,000. Even if every one of those chlidren stayed, would the district really need “hundreds more employees”? Only in the fever dreams of Smook Banng.

And in fact, these children are all in custody. There’s a backlog in the system, mandated by LAW, to process their cases. Many will be sent home after due process. Some will be reunited with families already in the U.S. Few if any will remain in Vermont.

To be fair, there were a few voices of reason in the cesspit of the Freeploid’s comment section. But they were outnumbered by the angry trolls dwelling under that journalistic bridge.

Again, congratulations to Aki Soga for making a strong case for thoughtful consideration of the issue. And you trolls can get back under your bridge anytime.