Tag Archives: WPTZ

Let’s Check In On Downtown Burling — Oh, Dear

There’s a lot of politically-motivated bemoaning of the Queen City’s fallen state these days. Crime, vandalism, fear, lawlessness, tsunamis, earthquakes, alien invasions… but now somebody’s brazen enough to label it an “apocalypse.”

Granted, it’s only Guy Page of the Vermont Daily Chronicle, but still. He really outdid himself with this one:

Fact check, please!

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What We’ve Lost

“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.

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PARKING PANIC!!! And the Reactionary Nature of Local TV News

Local TV news does more than its share of ridiculous things, but this one from WPTZ really got my goat. It’s about the modest changes to North Winooski Avenue approved by Burlington City Council Monday night. And it’s called…

Businesses in Burlington’s Old North End unsure of their future as North Winooski Parking Plan is set to happen

AAAAUUGGGHHH Parking Panic!!!!!!!!

The story, such as it was, quoted two — count ’em, two — Old North End business owners worried about the plan’s reduction of 40 parking spaces along the corridor.

This sort of thing is the red meat of local TV news: Raising fears about the unknown.

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Let’s Just Stop With the Convoy Crapola, Shall We?

“The parking lot is filled with red, white and blue.” Eh, nope.

Hey, remember the great Trucker Convoys that tied up downtown Ottawa and shut down the Ambassador Bridge because Truckers Mad About Freedom? Yeah, doesn’t that just scream “February”?

Well, it’s March, and I think it’s time to stop paying attention.

VTDigger, WCAX-TV and WPTZ-TV didn’t agree. They sent reporters to cover Freedom Convoy gatherings in Lebanon, NH and Champlain, NY. And having sent the reporters, they felt duty-bound to produce stories — despite the fact that the only “news” was how few people bothered to show up. And both broadcasters devoted more than two minutes to the story, which is an eon in TV time.

The reporters allowed themselves to become stenographers for the convoy movement. Participants were given plenty of time to list their grievances and depict themselves as simple, peaceful, freedom-loving Americans. There was no mention of the chaos and economic disruption caused by the Canadian protests, which was exactly the outcome the American organizers had hoped to produce.

See the image above? That’s a screenshot from WPTZ’s story. While that image was on screen, reporter Liz Strzepa said that the parking lot was “filled with red, white and blue.” Um, I see only six flags, ma’am.

Maybe that was an unfortunate juxtaposition and the lot was much fuller than it appeared. But Strzepa never showed a wide angle. There were many close shots of a few people and a few vehicles, but no establishing shot that would have given the whole picture. Probably because it would have exposed the gathering for what it was: a complete washout.

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And in the morning, the boulder’s back at the bottom of the hill

You could understand if Phil Scott and Sue Minter find themselves sympathizing with the plight of Sisyphus. Having won their respective primaries, they now face the task of refilling their nearly-empty warchests, and ASAP if you please.

The major-party nominees raised an ungodly (by Vermont standards) amount of money, and spent almost all of it just to get through their primaries.

The grim totals: Minter raised more than a million dollars — and spent all but $54,000 fending off the weaker-than-expected candidacies of Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith.

Scott enters the general campaign with $158,000 in the bank. But he entered the primary race with $95K left over from his previous walkovers for lieutenant governor. Without that cushion, he’d be dead even with Minter in cash on hand. In terms of money raised during the current campaign, he actually trails both Minter and Dunne.

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A Confederacy of Consultancies

When last we met, I was exploring Bruce Lisman’s campaign finance filing from March 15, trying to figure out how he managed to spend nearly $600,000 before the race has really even started.

In my previous post, I looked at how much money Lisman is paying his campaign manager Shawn Shouldice*, who’s a very experienced lobbyist (on behalf of big business, mostly) but has never run a campaign before, as far as I can tell.

*spoiler: it’s a LOT.

This time, we’ll explore the bewildering array of consultancies that have hitched themselves to the Lisman gravy train. There are so many different firms, that I wonder how their efforts can possibly be coordinated.

Or, to put it another way, how much money is being squandered by Lisman, currently standing at a brisk four percent in the polls. But first, a brief note about media spending.

As of March 15, Lisman for Governor had spent an astounding $82,242 on TV ad time, which is more than many campaigns spend in an entire cycle. The bulk of that money went to WCAX-TV ($38,080) and Comcast ($32,937). WPTZ was a distant third with $11,225. Lisman also spent $11,475 for online advertising and a measly $3,000 or so on radio.

Add it all up, that’s close to 100 G’s on media. Before March 15, for Pete’s sake! Which doesn’t include production costs — and Lisman, as we shall see below, hired a top-of-the-line conservative production firm to produce his ads.

Okay, back to the consultancies. There are roughly a dozen outfits that have each taken thousands from the Lisman campaign for “consulting” and such-like.

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Wow! Scott Milne puts an ad on TV!

He must have thoroughly scoured the sofa cushions, because he’s finally taken to the airwaves with a paid 30-second ad. Either that, or he spent some time on Ancestry.com searching for more Milnes and Boieses to fund his (very) late-blooming media effort. This is his first ad buy since the August primary, when he put out a single ad to help him fend off the “challenge” of Emily Peyton and Dan Feliciano.

Anyway, he managed to pay whatever it cost to produce the thing, plus $78,825 on ad time. And shockingly, he didn’t spend most of his money on WCAX:

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 5.44.30 PM

As for the ad itself, well, it’s exactly what you’d expect. It’s a rehash of Milne’s attacks on Governor Shumlin delivered in a downcast voice by a female narrator — how many days he’s been out of state, slow economy, high taxes, Vermont Health Connect — with creepy music in the background.

Then, as it always does, the music shifts to a happy, mellow tune and the camera focuses on Our Hero, Scott Milne, standing outside somewhere on a sunny day, promising to cap property taxes, enact new incentives for education, and end “Peter Shumlin’s failed health care experiment.”

And then, just before the video cuts away, this strange lopsided smirk spreads across his face:

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 5.40.05 PM

Eeeesh. Looks like a bad used car salesman.

Shoulda tightened up the edit just a bit, boys.

The ad ends with a slo-mo video of Milne in profile with the suddenly-upbeat female narrator saying, “Scott Milne for Governor. Focused on solutions… full-time.”

Just a touch of snide in her voice on the “full-time.”

So yeah, typical stuff. Probably came out of some Generic Political Ad Generator from some Generic Political Production Company.

Nothing wrong with it. It’s just utterly predictable.

Well, except for the smirk.

I guess I missed the memo: We’re taking Dan Feliciano seriously now?

This doesn’t add up. Take one Libertarian candidate for Governor; have him launch a write-in campaign for the Republican nomination, complete with the public support of exactly one Republican of any renown — Darcie Johnston, a Republican who’s on the outs with her party — shake it all up; and you have a serious, credible campaign? 


Libertarian Dan Feliciano held a news conference today, standing behind a folding table in a public park, to criticize Governor Shumlin’s budget policies. Now, a Libertarian presser usually doesn’t draw flies; but this time, WPTZ’s Stewart Ledbetter and the Freeploid’s Terri Hallenbeck showed up. I’m not sure why; Feliciano ain’t winning the primary. And on the Libertarian slate, Feliciano ain’t pulling more than a small minority of votes in November.

Boy, with all this media attention, Darcie Johnston must be happy as a pig in its customary environs. 

And Ledbetter’s story brands Feliciano only as a Republican. It doesn’t mention that he’s the Libertarian candidate. Rather, it puts him front and center in the Republican parade: 

Republicans went on the offensive Thursday, a day after Gov. Peter Shumlin and a panel of state legislators agreed on $31 million in adjustments to the new state budget. 

At a Burlington news conference, Dan Feliciano, a write-in candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, characterized Shumlin’s history of budget management a “carnival of incompetence.” 

Ledbetter goes on to quote Feliciano, give space for comment from the Governor, and finally shoehorn House Minority Leader Don Turner into the final paragraph. 

So, “Republicans” is defined as a lot of Feliciano and a skosh of Turner. Only the latter is an actual Republican. 

In her story, Hallenbeck at least points out that Feliciano is, first and foremost, a Libertarian candidate. Still, she gives his presser plenty of space, tossing in a comment from Don Turner for a bit of variety. 

I guess the Freeploid and Channel 5 wanted to run stories about a Republican response to this week’s budget tweaks. But shining the spotlight on Feliciano? Good grief. I wonder how Scott Milne feels about this; he’s had to cut back on campaign activity because HIS MOTHER DIED THIS WEEK. They haven’t even held the funeral yet, and reporters are chasing after Dan Feliciano because, I guess, Scott Milne isn’t returning phone calls?

If this keeps up, maybe Feliciano will be able to get himself an actual lectern. 

Addendum. Lest anyone think I’m unfairly disparaging Mr. Feliciano, my point is this: Usually, a candidate has to show some level of real support before earning the media’s attention. You wouldn’t see TV cameras at an Emily Peyton presser, for example. It’s just strange that WPTZ and the Freeploid chose to give Feliciano this much attention. And anointed him a central figure in Republican politics. That’s the phenomenon I found worthy of comment.