Every reporter loves to get a scoop — a story with some impact that you’ve got all to yourself. It’s a badge of honor, to be sure. But more often than not, it doesn’t make much of a difference.
The latest comes from Seven Days‘ Courtney Lamdin, who hit the sweet spot by uncovering a lucrative side hustle negotiated by the Burlington Police Officers Association. It made a deal with a luxury condo development to provide security with off-duty city cops.
Her story may affect the outcome of the hottest issue on the Burlington ballot: A proposed police oversight board that would exclude members of the force from serving. That idea has prompted opposition from Mayor Miro Weinberger and Interim-For-Life Police Chief Jon Murad, among others.
Well, Lamdin’s article makes me think there’s a real need for police oversight, and it would be best done without any officers on the board.
Hey, remember when Seven Days was the “alternative” newspaper in Burlington?
Well, if there was any doubt that the scrappy underground outfit has adulted itself into the establishment, last week’s “From the Publisher” column settled it once and for all. If you were to Google “White Privilege,” you might very well find a link to the piece.
The essay’s subject is the former Greater Burlington YMCA building at College and South Union Streets, now derelict and unused. It’s sad, but publisher Paula Routly sees it as emblematic of an entire city on the edge of an abyss.
Paula Routly is a real contributor to the city life and culture of Burlington. She and co-founder Pamela Polston are to be admired for what they have built. In a time when other print publications are shadows of their former selves, Seven Days is an invaluable part of Vermont’s media ecosystem.
But that column. Woof.
Whiny. Entitled. Fearful. Classist.
Lest you think I exaggerate, I call your attention to the last paragraph of the essay.
It’s Gerald Malloy, our very own Republican candidate for Senate, yukkin’ it up with insurrectionist fraudster Steve Bannon!
This is an image from Malloy’s October 17 appearance on Bannon’s “War Room” show, during which Bannon called on his legions of followers to volunteer for, or donate to, Malloy’s campaign.
Hmm… October 17… that date rings a bell… right, right. That was the day federal prosecutors called for Bannon to be locked up for six months for defying a Congressional subpoena.
Well, as old Aesop once said, “A man is known by the company he keeps.”
Speaking of which, do you remember the Mark Coester hullaballoo? The archconservative Senate candidate ‘s logging truck was in Colchester’s Fourth of July Parade, festooned with fascist and alt-right banners.
And Malloy for Senate campaign materials.
“…the company he keeps.”
Malloy has been the Republican nominee for more than two months. For the most part, the media coverage of him has been awfully polite and incurious. (One exception: Kevin McCallum’s deep dive in Seven Days.) This is probably because no one thinks he’s going to win, so why bother going beneath the surface? But still, he is a major party candidate for high office. He ought to get as much scrutiny as any other candidate.
Another week, another cockup by the allegedly competent managers in the Scott administration. This time it’s a mysteriously sidelined program to give retention bonuses to child care workers. The Legislature approved $7 million for the purpose in the spring; now it’s September, and the administration not only hasn’t spent a dime of the money, it has no idea when it will.
Meanwhile, child care is already difficult to find getting harder, as operators are stretched to the limit because of a lack of workers.
Seven Days‘ Alison Novak broke the story on Monday. As she tells it, the state Department for Children and Families’ Child Development Division has given out precious little information — and what they have disclosed is riven with inconsistencies and unmet deadlines.
Which raises the question, does the administration really want to spend the money at all? If they did, you’d think they would have gotten it going by now. The only other explanation is incompetence of a kind that we are seeing regularly from this regime.
I don’t know if the Ted Kenney campaign will have the gall to capitalize on Monday’s fatal shooting in Burlington, but if they don’t shout it from the rooftops, they will surely whisper it in the shadows. It seems like a political gift from the heavens for a tough-on-crime candidate looking to displace a progressive prosecutor.
But here’s the thing that caught my eye:
Using an AR-15 rifle, Dixon shot 22-year-old Kayla Noonan, a UVM student from New Jersey, and another 22-year-old woman who police have not identified, striking her multiple times, [Burlington Police Chief Jon] Murad said. Dixon subsequently shot and killed himself, the chief said.
Noonan was pronounced dead at the scene.
An AR-15, the gun of choice for mass murderers. Available for purchase just about anywhere.
“Why doesn’t the press cover __________?” is a question I’m often asked. There are a few answers, depending on context. Sometimes the press has covered it, but not as extensively or impactfully as you’d like. Sometimes there’s no coverage because it’s not that much of a story. But the most accurate answer is, “WHAT press?”
We all know the media business has shrunk, but I don’t think we realize exactly how far the shrinkage has gone or how deeply it affects the quality and quantity of news.
Go back, say, ten years. Not that long ago. The Associated Press had three reporters. The Burlington Free Press had at least two reporters at the Statehouse and covering state politics. The Times Argus and Rutland Herald had a three-person Statehouse bureau. Seven Days had three, and they’d deploy more if the need arose. VPR had two. WCAX and WPTZ each had a deeply experienced Statehouse/politics reporter full-time, and WVNY/WFFF usually had a young reporter on the beat most of the time.
On the other hand, VTDigger was barely more than a glimmer in Anne Galloway’s eye.
Well, actually, it was Galloway by herself, working her ass off. No time for glimmering.
Now, Digger has three Statehouse reporters plus issue specialists who frequent the Statehouse when their beats are involved. So that’s an improvement over the good old days. But look at the rest of the landscape.
👏👏👏👏👏 to Seven Days’ Sasha Goldstein for doing what few reporters have bothered to do: He took a deep dive into Congressional candidates’ campaign finance reports. Those filings are more than a month old, but as he discovered, there was still plenty of meat on them old bones. Let him serve as an example to us all.
What did he find? Turns out Lt. Gov. Molly Gray has a f-ton of D.C. lobbyist money behind her campaign for Congress.
I don’t begrudge her raising money wherever she can. Running in a competitive primary for Congress is an expensive proposition, and I don’t really think she’ll be at the beck and call of big-money interests any more than St. Peter Welch has been. He’s taken loads of money from lobbyists and corporate interests. And we know he’s not compromised.
Anyway. Gray is cashing in on her D.C. connections and her very real ties to the Welch/Pat Leahy orbit. Fine. Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale has received max contributions from quite a few AAPI donors, and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint has the support of LGBTQ+ contributors and organizations.
They’ve all got their affinity groups. Gray’s happens to be D.C. insiders. But the trouble starts when this recipient of Beltway Bucks attempts to claim the moral high ground on campaign finance. She doesn’t have a leg to stand on, or a pickup truck to ride in.
Is it just me, or is something slightly… off… about the sale of South Burlington’s University Mall to a global investment firm?
On the surface it seems like good news. Taconic Capital Advisors and Eastern Real Estate will buy the Mall for a tidy $60 million, which happens to be $26.2 million north of its assessed value.
Let’s stop there. A big investment fund buying a declining property in a dying industry for nearly double its assessed value?
Things that make you go hmmmm…
Taconic describes its traders as “opportunistic investors” looking for market inefficiencies. That’s usually Wall Street-speak for “we buy low on assets and squeeze every last dollar out of them.” See: Every time an investment firm buys newspapers.
The above chart, courtesy of the investor-information website “WhaleWisdom,” shows a damn high churn rate for Taconic. The different colors represent different market sectors. As you can see, Taconic specializes on diving into market sectors where they see potential profit and getting out just as quickly.
Given that history, it’s a little hard to credit Taconic’s stated intention to “reenergize” the mall and “build on its success.” First of all, long-term stewardship of an asset doesn’t seem to be Taconic’s game. And second, success?
“That does not compute,” said Mr. Spock when asked for comment.
Chelsea Edgar didn’t have an easy assignment. The Seven Days reporter was given the task of writing a comprehensive take on the life and times of the late Peggy Luhrs, pioneering feminist, antiwar activist and, in her later years, a loud and unapologetic TERF. Luhrs lived a long time and accomplished many things. But she was a source of hate for the transgender community.
Doing right by all of that is a tough balance to strike. But there was one big area where Edgar and her editors absolutely fell down on the job.
Not a single transgender person was quoted.
Five friends were quoted, as well as five community activists, some of whom work in the LGBTQIA space. Luhrs herself was quoted at least seven times, and there were multiple examples of her harsh rhetoric. (One of her friends uttered a toned-down version of the TERF point of view.) The conservative Republican Bradford Broyles even got the chance to call trans women “biological males.”
But no room for transgender people. We should have heard from trans women at least; many of them were directly affected by Luhrs’ hateful actions.
What ought to be the most coveted perch in Vermont journalism is once again vacant. After a mere four months on the job, Mark Johnson has relinquished the Peter Freyne Chair in Instigative Journalism, d/b/a the “Fair Game” column in Seven Days.
One could be forgiven for wondering if this position doesn’t have a curse attached to it. Johnson’s predecessor, Dave Gram, lasted only five months. The guy before him was rather spectacularly fired after 2 1/2 years on the job.
That would be me.
My predecessor Paul Heintz held the job for almost five years. Otherwise, what ought to be the most coveted perch in Vermont journalism has been a revolving door with only one consistent thread: We’ve all been white males.
It’s time for a change, and not just in race and gender expression. Not that anyone at Seven Days is likely to heed my advice, but hey, I’ve had first-hand experience with the ups and downs of the job, and I do have some hard-earned insight.
First of all, I’d definitely keep the column. It’s the heart and soul of the paper, and it occupies a unique and valuable position in the Vermont media landscape.
Otherwise, the Powers That Be need to not only think outside the box; they need to stomp the box flat and toss it in recycling.