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391 posts categorized "Media"

August 27, 2012

Vermont's Fake Twitter Accounts: A Field Guide

Twitter-bird-white-on-blue

You may have heard about @THISISVT, the new Twitter account which will be operated by a different Vermont citizen each week. It was created by the state Department of Tourism in the vein of @Sweden and @NewZealand, but hopefully without the awkward moments. Picking a citizen to temporarily act as the voice of a polity is officially trending.

@THISISVT's goal of representing Vermont through the real voices of Vermonters is a noble one. But you know what's more fun? Fake voices. More specifically, the jokey Twitter accounts that come about through anthropomorphizing the creatures and machines that populate our state. They're a critical part of the Twitter ecosystem, making sure that it can't be taken too seriously in the midst of all the self-promotion and buzzwords. Sure, they're probably a waste of time — but at least they're fun! (Usually.)

Here's a brief guide to the parody accounts that populate our local Twittersphere. Give 'em a follow if you don't already.

(Note: This list does not include Twitter accounts purporting to belong to pets or newborns. Parents, please don’t pretend to be your child on social media.)

Continue reading "Vermont's Fake Twitter Accounts: A Field Guide" »

August 23, 2012

Reporters Hyperventilate Over, Then Discount, Poll — After a Call to Eric Davis

ClarkWhen word spread Wednesday afternoon that Castleton State College's new-ish polling center would release fresh results on the bitterly contested Democratic primary race for attorney general, reporters drooled.

At least, I did.

After all, we live in one of the least-polled states in the union, leaving political reporters to simply guess what real people are thinking or, worse yet, to dust off the rolodex and query retired Middlebury College professor Eric Davis — Vermont's Pundit Laureate, as Green Mountain Daily's John Walters endearingly calls him — who will readily provide the latest conventional wisdom.

So when Castleton released the first publicly available poll of the AG's race since May — back when the contest was still in its infancy — reporters surely went straight to Castleton Polling Institute director Rich Clark to seek his insight into what his poll tells — and doesn't tell — us about the state of the race. Right?

Uhhh, not exactly. Their speed-dials seemingly frozen on Eric Davis' number, at least three news outlets went straight to the Oracle of Middlebury to see what he thought about a poll he didn't conduct.

Continue reading "Reporters Hyperventilate Over, Then Discount, Poll — After a Call to Eric Davis" »

August 01, 2012

Mayor Weinberger Holds Photo Op, But Not a Question Op

Photo Op

Updated below with apology from mayoral assistant Mike Kanarick.

On Monday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's office alerted the local press to a "photo opportunity" that would take place on the back steps of City Hall at 9:40 a.m. the following morning. The occasion was the prelude to the mayor's first formal meeting with both Fletcher Allen Health Care CEO Dr. John Brumsted and the recently installed University of Vermont president, Tom Sullivan.

Photo ops are not a common occurrence in Vermont. They're staged publicity events more associated with the president of the United States than with the mayor of Burlington. Two other reporters in attendance — Joel Banner Baird of the Burlington Free Press and Greg Guma of VTDigger.org — said they had no recollection of a photo op in these parts.

Sure enough, though, the trio of local VIPs showed up on schedule with smiles for the cameras. Trying to follow up on last week's story about UVM's disinclination to construct more student housing, I asked Sullivan a question about why the university does not require juniors and seniors to live on campus — as, for example, St. Michael's College does.

Sullivan replied that in providing campus accommodations for 60 percent of its student body, UVM has already done more in this regard than have many other institutions of its kind. But before Sullivan could field a followup question — "Will UVM commit to building more student housing?" — mayoral aide Carina Driscoll intervened to announce that this was a photo op, not a press conference, so further queries would not be appropriate.

The White House press corps, by contrast, is sometimes able to get answers from the president to questions asked at "photo ops."

Weinberger, Sullivan and Brumsted then climbed the steps to city hall, paused for a few more clicks of cameras, and headed inside for their private discussion.

**Update**

Mayoral assistant Mike Kanarick, who was not present at the photo op, called soon after it ended to apologize for its abrupt ending. Kanarick said he wants to emphasize that "the mayor has an open-door policy." Kanarick also arranged for Seven Days to conduct a half-hour interview with Weinberger early this afternoon. A Blurt on the mayor's remarks during that session will be posted soon.

Photo credit: Kevin J. Kelley

July 26, 2012

In Currier Case, a Scoop — Then Silence

Currier PresserMore than 13 months after Bill and Lorraine Currier disappeared without a trace from their Essex home, a host of law enforcement officials called a press conference last Friday morning to divulge new details about one of Vermont's most mysterious recent crime stories.

With a dozen reporters covering the presser and several news outlets carrying it live, authorities disclosed that the Curriers were murdered in a random act committed by a suspect now in custody outside of Vermont.

Beyond that, federal, state and local law enforcement officials' lips were sealed. They wouldn't say who the suspect was, where he or she was being held, nor how they broke the case.

Shortly after the presser ended, though, one local news station, WCAX-TV, appeared to break the story wide open: cops and courts reporter Jennifer Reading reported on the station's noon broadcast and then via Twitter that, "Ch. 3 confirms that Currier murder suspect is 34 year old Israel Keyes from AK. He's behind bars there 4 allegedly killing a teen in April."

CAX followed up at 6 p.m. with a more complete broadcast story outlining further details: Keyes, Reading reported, was being held in Alaska for allegedly kidnapping and killing an 18-year-old coffee shop worker and using her debit card to withdraw money at ATMs all across the western United States. The station said that while Keyes was being questioned about the Alaska murder, "he told investigators where they could find the bodies of a missing Vermont couple." That intel apparently led to a dig at another Essex property and, eventually, to a Coventry landfill.

As soon as CAX broke the story, it spread like wildfire — at least, in Alaska. Television stations, radio stations and newspapers across the Last Frontier ran with the story, mostly just repeating CAX's reporting.

In Vermont, however, there was only silence.

Continue reading "In Currier Case, a Scoop — Then Silence" »

June 21, 2012

More on Markowitz's Muddled Message

As we reported in this week's Fair Game, Agency of Natural Resources Sec. Deb Markowitz made a bit of a whoopsie last week at a Norwich University panel on Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts. The ANR secretary and former gubernatorial candidate apparently stepped on her boss' message, criticizing Gov. Peter Shumlin's handling of the state's waterways in the weeks and months afer the August flooding.

The episode was first reported by Vermont Public Radio's Steve Zind, who quoted Markowitz as saying, "[Shumlin] early on made some statements, some ‘dig-baby-dig' type statements, that inspired Vermonters to help out in ways that ultimately are very costly not just to the ecosystem but to the infrastructure."

After administration officials pushed back on her comments, Markowitz declined or ignored several requests for an interview (we suspected she might have been stuck in time out), but she did send us an e-mail saying her comments "were misinterpreted."

Well, VPR has now posted a two-and-a-half minute audio clip of Markowitz's remarks on its website, providing a little more context to the episode.

Did VPR get it wrong? Actually, the comments are even worse than we thought. Markowitz bemoans the fact that she and her agency "didn't have a chance to educate [Shumlin] in advance" and failed to "manage up" — i.e. get her boss on message.

Continue reading "More on Markowitz's Muddled Message" »

June 06, 2012

Radio Show 'State of the Re:Union' Comes to Vermont

Stateoftherunion_wrj_vermont1-300x201A few months ago a young woman named Katrina Roi contacted Seven Days. She's an intern at "State of the Re:Union," a syndicated public-radio show and website that reports on locales around the U.S. I had heard this program on Vermont Public Radio a number of times and really enjoyed its in-depth explorations of not just the who/what/where of a place but of what makes its people tick. The soul of the community, as it were.

I also enjoyed the show's host, Al Letson, who's the executive producer, as well. He came from the poetry-slam movement and really gets delivery.

So I was excited to find out that SOTRU was coming to Vermont. Tropical Storm Irene was the impetus; Letson and crew wanted to know how Vermonters lived through, and came out of, that experience, which devastated so many small towns in our state.

Continue reading "Radio Show 'State of the Re:Union' Comes to Vermont" »

June 01, 2012

Grazing: What Journalists Eat, or Don't, During an Awards Fête

PlaceWhen everyone at your table grasps at a basket of warm rolls as if they're hundred-dollar bills, they're either very hungry, very cold, or both.

It might have been sunny and 72 degrees outside, but inside a conference room at Montpelier's Capitol Plaza Hotel yesterday, the temperature hovered closer to arctic. A few dozen journalists had gathered for the Vermont Press Association's annual meeting and awards ceremony and, after a few hours of sitting through panel discussions, the rolls were the very welcome advance guard of our lunch, one that would almost certainly (I was told) end with chocolate mousse.

The rolls were also, indeed, vital warming devices; I was tempted to place one on my lap, but instead slathered it with Cabot butter and kept an anxious eye out for the main event.

Continue reading "Grazing: What Journalists Eat, or Don't, During an Awards Fête" »

May 15, 2012

Vermont Tiger Roars No More

GeoffNormanVermont’s online political arena moved a notch to the left Tuesday as the state’s most prominent conservative blog, Vermont Tiger, announced it's ceasing regular publication.

Dorset writer and editor Geoffrey Norman (pictured right; photo by Lee Krohn), who launched the blog in January 2007, said that competing professional and family obligations are forcing him to scale back from posting new content on a daily basis.

“I made a point when I started this thing: there was going to be something fresh up every day and there was — including the day my mother died,” he says.

Over the years, the blog has featured a host of voices promoting free market principles, including University of Vermont economist Art Woolf, Ethan Allen Institute president John McClaughry and St. Albans Messenger publisher Emerson Lynn.

Though Norman moved to Vermont nearly 35 years ago, the Alabama native told Seven Days in 2010 that he didn’t start paying attention to Vermont politics until his property taxes tripled in 2006.

Norman says that after years training his fire on many of the same issues — Vermont Yankee, Act 160, Act 250 — he’s struggled recently to find fresh things to write.

“I just wonder if I have anything original to say about them,” he says.

Continue reading "Vermont Tiger Roars No More" »

May 03, 2012

In Web Ad, Brock Bears Down on Shumlin

Vermont Republicans are bringing to bear quite a metaphorical campaign against Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin.

In case you missed it, Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) prowled the streets of St. Albans with an ursine companion during Sunday’s Maple Festival parade — presumably scouring for blueberries and votes. Brock and his furry friend were, of course, alluding to Birdfeedergate, a sorry incident involving a governor-sans-pajamas that we’d all prefer to forget.

State GOPers, however, seem to believe their metaphorical march will bear fruit. Maybe they think it has legs. Four of them!

In a new web ad released Thursday morning, Brock and the Vermont Republican Party bear down on Shumlin with a parody of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Bear in the woods” ad. Featuring footage of the governor’s favorite beast, a menacing narrator intones over a beating heart, “There’s a bear in the woods. For most people in Vermont, the bear is easy to see. But others, like Gov. Shumlin, don’t see the bear at all. Why can’t Gov. Shumlin see any of the bears?”

Continue reading "In Web Ad, Brock Bears Down on Shumlin" »

April 10, 2012

In Utility Merger Fight, A Battle For Votes — Or For Hearts and Minds?

If supporters of a proposed merger between the state’s two largest electric companies made one thing clear Tuesday it’s this: They’re winning the inside game in the Statehouse.

At a hearing held by two House committees Tuesday morning, an all-star lineup of current and former regulators, business leaders and the execs of the merging companies — Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service — stepped up to the microphone to say, “Hey legislature, mind your beeswax and quit meddling with the merger.”

House Energy Committee chairman Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier), who organized the hearing, said that with the merger battle royale focused on a disputed $21 million component, his goal was to broaden the scope of the debate.

“It’s a $700-million-plus deal and we’re only focused on $21 million. Part of this hearing was to find out what’s in the rest of the $700 million,” he said.

To opponents of the deal, Klein — who, like House Speaker Shap Smith, believes the legislature shouldn’t weigh in on the merger — was simply trying to change the subject. They say Smith and the merger’s chief elected booster, Gov. Peter Shumlin, are bottling up two bills that could be amended by detractors to change the terms of the merger.

“I think they’re just trying to run out the session and then we’ll all go away,” says Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset), who coauthored an amendment that would force the merging companies to cut $21 million in checks to ratepayers.

If that is indeed the House leadership’s not-so-secret plan, it certainly appears to be working. Though Komline says she’s convinced 80 House members to support her amendment — a majority of the 150-member body — you can’t amend a bill that's not going to the floor.

Over in the Senate, antagonism toward the merger has been louder but less organized. While Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has bucked the Shumlin administration by indicating ambivalence toward the deal, it’s anyone’s guess whether he'll organize his chamber to oppose it. Campbell did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

So with merger proponents winning the inside game at the Statehouse, it’s time for those who want to tweak the deal to take their ball and go home, right?

Not if you ask Greg Marchildon, Vermont state director for AARP. His interest group is the loudest proponent of returning the $21 million — the value of a 2001 ratepayer-financed bailout of CVPS — to consumers and businesses, rather than investing it in energy efficiency, as the electric companies and the Shumlin administration have proposed.

Continue reading "In Utility Merger Fight, A Battle For Votes — Or For Hearts and Minds?" »

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