Tag Archives: The Commons

I Think They Used to Call This “Whoredom”

The good people of Brattleboro must be wondering “What in hell happened to our local newspaper?” Because the Reformer’s owner, Belarusian native and skillionaire currency trader Paul Belogour, has begun exercising Rich Guy’s Prerogative over the paper’s content.

Last week the Reformer published a despicable opinion piece by Belogour entitled “War is the Answer” in which he explained why the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a good thing. Well, actually, he didn’t say “invasion.” He said “the war between Russia and Ukraine,” which is exactly like saying “the battle between lion and antelope.”

That was bad enough, but at least it was labeled “opinion” and carried the usual disclaimer “The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.” But now the paper has published a “news” article that’s essentially a handjob for the boss.

The story, entitled “Refugees to be housed at Belogour’s Bulgarian hotel; his pro soccer team opens doors to displaced women, children.” Said soccer team is also in Bulgaria. It doesn’t even try to connect the story with Brattleboro, because there is no connection.

And it carries the weakest possible disclosure. Belogour is identified, deep in the article, as the owner of Vermont News & Media. Astute readers will know that’s the parent company of the Reformer, Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal. The rest of the reading public will not make that connection. It’s a deceptive, inadequate disclosure. But I bet it made the boss happy.

Those pieces are bad enough. What we don’t know is how many pieces have not been published. Newspapers have wide latitude when it comes to running wire service copy and syndicated columnists. If there was a ban on coverage of the global communitys reaction or the humanitarian disaster or Russian aggression or the heroism of Ukraine’s president, we wouldn’t be able to tell.

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Daily Newspapers Need to Die

R.I.P. Sports Illustrated, one of this lifelong reader/sports fan’s favorite media properties. I say “media property” rather than “magazine” because it long ago became a trading chip in the progressive monetization of everything. Yesterday, its new owners basically stripped SI down to the studs, and will soon begin tearing out the fixtures and wiring to sell for scrap. As the great Ray Ratto, himself a past victim of media downsizing, put it:

Sports Illustrated being turned into a title with nothing to support it has been seen as inevitable since Time, Inc. got out of the business, and this is simply the lousy next step. There will be others, and then it will disappear the way Inside Sports did, and before that Sport Magazine, and before that the International Herald Tribune. There will always be soulless brutes who buy, gut and sell things, and die as they lived, without value or memories. May their demises be slow, painful and filled with screams only they can hear.

What will be left behind, the “soulless brutes” hope, is a “brand” that can be squeezed for every last drop of profit before finally being shuttered for good. The media entity’s staff, traditionally a home for the best sports writers in America, will be filled out by contract workers. And we all know how well the “gig economy” treats writers and journalists.

Which brings me to the dying business of daily newspapers. Us olds, who still value curated journalism that tries to reflect the life of its community and provide a window on the world, stubbornly maintain our subscriptions to formerly worthy entities like the Burlington Free Press and Barre Montpelier Times Argus out of the forlorn hope that, thanks to our fingers in the dike, we can help our dailies maintain a shred of their former relevance.

Well, sorry, but that ship has sailed. Daily newspapers are never going to be anything more than a gaunt outline of their former selves. They are never going to fulfill their traditional role in civic discourse. They need to die so that something new might grow.

This would be a bad thing for all the hard-working, talented people who spend their days performing CPR on their own employers. I do not wish unemployment on the Emilie Stiglianis, April McCullums, Steve Pappases and David Delcores of the world. But their fates are not in my hands. Their paychecks arrive at the sufferance of far-away corporate owners who don’t have the slightest interest in the well-being of their minions, let alone the Constitutional duty of journalism. They see media properties as things to strip-mine with no concern for tomorrow.

And they are occupying valuable space in our media landscape for no purpose other than short-term profit.

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Southern Vermont: Journalism-free zone?

A while ago I was chatting with somebody from Seven Days, and I half-jokingly suggested that Vermont’s only financially healthy print publication should think about launching a Southern Vermont Edition. Or at least, including some southern Vermont content within the existing paper. (The Rutland Herald and Times Argus share stories, but what’s front page in one is often on page 5 in the other.)

Well, it might just be go time.

New England Newspapers Inc., has laid off 10 editorial employees in Vermont and Massachusetts.

The company laid off three newsroom staffers at the [Brattleboro] Reformer. Tom D’Errico, the manager of content marketing, Mike Faher, senior reporter, and Pat Smith, the newsroom clerk, were given notice on Friday. On June 12, Michelle Karas, the managing editor of the Reformer and the [Bennington] Banner left earlier to take a job at The Colorado Springs Gazette. The Banner laid off newly hired reporter Jacob Colone, and the [Manchester] Journal let go of Brandon Canevari.

Leaving two papers with “skeleton crews”: three reporters at the Banner and only two at the Reformer, whose coverage of Vermont Yankee has been invaluable to the entire state. And at the Journal, they’re facing a Zen question: what do you call a newspaper with no reporters? That’s right: zero.

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