Tag Archives: Mount Anthony Union High School

Will the Witness For Synthetic Turf Please Take the Stand?

Last month I brought you news of Michael Shively, professional “expert” on sex trafficking and staunch foe of decriminalizing sex work. He took the mic at Burlington and Montpelier City Council meetings, delivered his spiel, and got quite a bit of coverage in the media. More than he deserved. His credentials went unquestioned in press coverage. In truth, he represents an organization that sprung out of the religious right and has fought not only sex trafficking but also pornography, sex toys and birth control.

Well, now we’ve got another professional expert whose credentials should not be accepted at face value. Meet Laura Green, PhD., who has represented the synthetic turf industry and developers of synthetic turf athletic fields on numerous occasions. Her take is that synthetic turf is not at all harmful. It’s just a bunch of inert ingredients, nothing to see here, please move along.

Green does have solid credentials in the field of toxicology, but she has been a paid expert on only one side of the synthetic turf issue. Many experts and environmentalists do not agree with her view. Truth is, the necessary research on the safety of turf has yet to be done. It’s an open question.

Green recently paid a digital visit to Vermont, specifically the board of Mount Anthony Union High School down Bennington way. The board has proposed covering a dilapidated field with synthetic turf. Green spoke at a special meeting about the plan on October 25. Her expertise was taken pretty much at face value by trustees and the local press. (The Bennington Banner both-sidesed the hearing, which is always the shortest route to fake objectivity.)

Before proceeding any further, I should note that the plan has been derailed, at least for now. On November 3 district voters rejected the proposal, most likely over its cost. School officials are deciding what to do next; the field needs attention one way or another. Synthetic turf remains an option.

Back to the witness for Big Turf.

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… and a child shall lead them.

About a month ago, a journalism class at Bennington’s Mount Anthony Union High School posted a video on YouTube in which they systematically dismantled the integrity of Fox News “journalist” Jesse Watters. The video’s gotten 370,000 hits, and is well worth watching.

This has received quite a bit of notice outside Vermont, but not much within our borders. Probably something to do with Vermont media’s northern orientation; Bennington is a virtual black hole because it’s far away and not easy to get to.

A while ago, Watters ran a piece on “The O’Reilly Factor” in which he visited Vermont to confirm its reputation as a liberal hotbed. His visit was as pro forma as it could have been; he went to Bennington, the closest town to his NYC base, and did a handful of “man on the street” interviews with questions designed to prove his prefabricated point that Vermont is a haven of the far left. Questions like, “Why do you think the President has allowed terrorists to take over a third of Iraq?” (Pronounced eye-RACK.) His interview subjects were stereotypically flaky young people. (I doubt he considered asking anyone in a business suit to take part.)

Mr. Integrity.

Mr. Integrity.

The MAUHS students compared Watters’ report with the ethical standards of the Society of Professional Journalists, and found him guilty of “too many violations to count” resulting in a “wholesale distortion of truth.” As one student concludes, “By watching Fox News, we have learned buckets about journalism: what to do, and more importantly, what never to do.”

The conclusion isn’t a surprise, but what’s notable is the diligence and thoroughness of these students. Their work is worth noting and celebrating. Fox News didn’t see it that way, naturally; Bill O’Reilly referred to the students as “pinheads.” Stay classy, Loofah Man.

Oh, and just in case you want to stereotype these kids as loony liberals, the same class has taken the New York Times to task for its overheated reporting on drug abuse in Vermont, particularly the Times’ assertion that “the hallways of Mount Anthony Union High School… were littered with bags of heroin.”

Tweaking the noses of the powerful: one of the core functions of real journalism.