Tag Archives: Bob Kinzel

Journalism by Press Release

Looking at my calendar, I see that we are almost at the halfway mark between the August 9 primary and the November 8 election. And I’m still waiting for the serious news coverage to begin.

So far, it’s been just short of pathetic. Reporters have chased around the obvious opportunities — press releases, press conferences, debates — but initiated very little on their own, and done virtually no fact-checking or analysis of candidates’ positions.

Maybe they’re just waiting. Or maybe the market-driven diminution of our media corps has reached the point where there simply isn’t any meat left on the bones.

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Sausage Party II: I think We’re All Dicks on This Bus

Aw, fer the love of Mike. There goes the eyelid again.

The Vermont media corps followed up their reliance on a teeny-tiny (and entirely male) pool of pundits with a rousing encore this morning.

First, I come across an article by VTDigger’s Mike Polhamus* about the wind energy issue in the gubernatorial race. And there’s our man in Middlebury:

Eric Davis, a retired Middlebury College political science professor, said the voters most fired up on the wind turbine issue are people in rural areas who live near existing wind projects.

Now, that’s the kind of unfiltered conventional wisdom that money just can’t buy.

And then, just when my eyelid was settling down, I open up VPR’s webpage and find a piece by Bob Kinzel that not only quotes Davis at length, but throws in a healthy dose of Garrison Nelson for good measure.

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House conferees close the gambling back door

Sen. Kevin Mullin’s attempts to sneak pro-gambling language into a pair of unrelated bills has failed, thanks to the efforts of House conferees.

Mullin craps out.

Mullin craps out.

I first wrote about this last week; the day before yesterday, another Vermont media source finally decided to pursue the story. VPR’s Bob Kinzel had more detail than I did — although he focused on one of Mullin’s maneuvers and missed the other. Still, if you want more information, do read his piece.

To recap, Mullin slipped language into a consumer protection bill that laid out consumer protections for daily fantasy sports — an activity deemed by Eternal General Bill Sorrell to be illegal. Which seems contradictory: why regulate an illegal industry? (That’s the one Kinzel missed.) And into the big budget bill, he inserted language that would have allowed the Lottery Commission more leeway in placing electronic gaming machines in bars and restaurants — possibly including Keno and video poker.

The part I failed to catch was that the current gaming-machine pilot program is set to expire this summer. Mullin’s amendment would have removed the sunset and broadened the definition of acceptable machines. His amendment had the support of Lottery Director Greg Smith, who is under pressure to grow revenues.

Which, given the current EB-5 scandal, is kind of ironic. A central problem with EB-5 was that a single agency was tasked with regulating AND promoting the same activity. And here’s the Lottery Commission, regulating AND promoting the same activity. Conflict of interest, anyone?

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The Governor prepares a soft landing

Is Peter Shumlin starting to act like a lame duck? It would seem so. To judge by this week’s paltry trinkle of news, he looks to have one eye fixed on the past and the other on his post-gubernatorial future. And he’s already given up on fixing one major debit in his administrative ledger.

As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, Shumlin opposes any tax increases to pay for Vermont’s burgeoning Medicaid bill, but he doesn’t want to cut eligibility or benefits either. In fact, he’s washing his hands of the whole mess.

“I don’t know which governor is going to get to solve this problem,” he added. “But I hope a governor gets to solve it soon.”

“…once I’m safely ensconced in the private sector with my lissome new bride,” he might have added under his breath.

Yeah, screw the 2016 session. The Governor, you see, proposed a Medicaid fix last year and the Legislature ungratefully rejected it. So he’s done his duty, and hereby washes his hands of the matter.

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Bob Kinzel, Stenographer to the Stars

Earlier this week, even as Vermont Public Radio was (once again!) asking people to send money in support of its uniquely valuable programming, it squandered two minutes and twelve seconds of airtime on a useless bit of puffery. I’m sure Peter Welch appreciated it, but it kind of undercut the message of the fund drive.

The story, reported by Bob Kinzel, related Congressman Welch’s thoughts on the then-pending Iran nuclear treaty vote. Kinzel gave a shallow, uninsightful retelling of the background, which provided Welch a handy platform to air his views.

This is not journalism; it is stenography. It essentially served the same purpose as a press release or constituent newsletter.

The piece included two voices: Kinzel’s and Welch’s. There was no attempt to include other viewpoints. This is the simplest kind of public radio story. There are places where it’s appropriate, such as a profile piece or first-person account; in this context, it’s just a lazy way to kill a couple of minutes.

Kinzel’s been around a long time, and he does some good work. Unfortunately, he is also VPR’s go-to guy for these two-minute service pieces for members of our Congressional delegation. They follow a cookie-cutter format: Kinzel relates some background information and the Congressman or Senator provides some boilerplate sound bites.

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Tossin’ manure with Dave

I guess I should congratulate VTGOP chair David Sunderland for possessing the all-encompassing optimism of the little boy who gets a pile of horseshit on Christmas morning and starts rooting around, saying “There’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere!” Because here he is, in a story from VPR:

The head of the Vermont Republican Party says Donald Trump’s campaign to win the GOP presidential nomination is, on balance, a good thing for the political process here in Vermont and across the county [sic].

Well, it’s a good thing for the likes of me. The more turmoil and buffoonery in the Republican process, the better chance we have of electing a Democrat in 2016. But how can it be a good thing from Sunderland’s, presumably pro-Republican, point of view?

Sunderland… says Trump has brought out some valuable new ideas. Sunderland says the result has been a good discussion among most of the other GOP presidential candidates.

Hmm. Donald Trump. Valuable ideas.

Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.

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Leahy re-ups; a mixed blessing

So the news comes by way of VPR’s Bob Kinzel that Patrick Leahy will seek re-election in 2016. It’s not too much of a surprise, although if (hahaha, when) he wins an eighth term in office, he will be closing in on 77 years old. But he’s in good health, and I’m sure he sees the opportunity for the Democrats to regain the majority in the Senate; Republicans will be defending seats won in the Tea Party sweep of 2010, and will be hard-pressed to repeat that success in a Presidential year. If the Dems win back the Senate, Leahy gets back his beloved Judiciary Committee chairmanship.

On balance, Leahy’s continued presence in the Senate is a good thing. He’s reliably one of the more liberal members of the Senate, for one. Also, his seniority means influence, and he does bring home the bacon on a regular basis. (The most recent example: generous federal funding for the Lake Champlain cleanup.)

But, as universally beloved as St. Patrick is in Vermont liberal circles, I see some downside to his announcement.

First, he’s been in the Senate for 41 years, and he sometimes shows a dismaying loyalty to the clubby mores of our most hidebound deliberative body. When he chaired the Judiciary Committee, he made it harder for President Obama to get judicial nominees confirmed because of his adherence to the Senate’s “blue slip” tradition, which allows a single Senator to sideline a nomination.

Second, his continued presence will exacerbate the logjam in the upper reaches of liberal politics, and keep the glass ceiling pressed firmly on the aspirations of liberal women. We’ve never sent a woman to Congress, which is downright shameful. And it doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon; there are a lot of experienced, connected, talented men at the front of the line, waiting for their shot at higher office.

Finally, there’s the generation gap: add up the ages of our three members of Congress, and you get 215 years. That’s an average age of just under 72. Not that there’s anything wrong with being old; I myself aspire to a long and active elderhood. Still, I’m vaguely bothered by the lack of diversity in our admittedly small group: all men, all white, all senior citizens.

On balance, I’m happy with our Congressional delegation. Individually, they’re all fine. Collectively, though, they’re too old and homogeneous. Leahy’s announcement means it’ll take that much longer to get some new blood into Congress.