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December 2008

December 04, 2008

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December 03, 2008

VT Media Layoffs - Morning Roundup *UPDATED*

UPDATED below with more details on layoffs at the Burlington Free Press, as well as the announcement of a layoff at Seven Days.

This is expected to be a mournful week in the media industry — especially in the local market.

News giant Gannett is set to eliminate thousands of jobs nationally and an undetermined amount locally at the Burlington Free Press.

The Free Press' sister papers have already trimmed more than 650 workers as of this morning (not all of them forced layoffs) according to a running tally by Jim Hopkins at Gannett Blog.

As "Fair Game" reports this week, the slumping national economy is causing ad revenue to dive precipitously — especially in classified ads (employment, housing, and auto the hardest hit). Remember, the Free Press has already laid off six employees, two managers, and outsourced some of its work to Kentucky and India this year as an effort to cuts expenses.

Local television station WCAX-TV has had to lay off workers for the first time in a generation. Three workers were told the news yesterday, with two more lay offs to be announced. Additional, across-the-board measures were taken to cut expenses. Those are said to affect all employees.

Here's the statement posted on their website:

Channel 3 made some reductions in personnel this week and cut some expenses. 

Like many companies, we are seeing declining revenues in the current economic crisis. Consequently, we have had to lay off several employees — some of them familiar faces to you, and friends to us.

The company regrets these layoffs but felt they were unavoidable. Out of respect for their privacy we are not identifying those affected, but we shall miss them, and wish them all the best of luck.

Of course, everyone wants to know who they won't see anymore on the small screen.

Seven Days has learned that the three let go include morning sports reporter Shawna Lidsky, as well as morning part time producer and reporter Rachael Morrow. Also, long time photographer Steve Longchamp was let go after more than 20 years at the station.

Our condolences.

No word yet from the other TV stations about whether the slumping economy will force them to take similar measures. But, we're checking.

Also, no immediate news from Burlington Free Press Publisher Brad Robertson as to when there might be additional layoffs announced at the state's largest newspaper.

"We are not ready to announce anything that relates to layoffs," he told Seven Days this week.

Staffers we talk to are walking on pins and needles, and say little is being said inside the fortress at 191 College Street, only fueling the angst.

In the previous rounds of layoffs the newsroom hasn't taken the brunt of the losses, and hopefully for readers' sakes that will remain the case.


Seven Days is including itself in today's list of media companies announcing staffing cuts. Though, in our case it's one employee.

Seven Days has eliminated a position — News Editor Brian Wallstin's — in anticipation of smaller papers in 2009. The job didn't exist before 2007, so the paper is accustomed to functioning without it. That said, Brian will definitely be missed.

Secondly, we've learned the names of the first two laid-off Free Press staffers. They are: Myra Mathis-Flynn in Features and Rob Eley, a longtime editor and reporter. In fact, Rob was the Metro Editor at the Freeps when I worked there in the early 90s. A great guy and a big loss for the paper, as he has been leading the organization's efforts to put more searchable databases online.

In all, the Free Press will eliminate 14 positions — five vacant jobs will not be filled and nine people will be let go (with severance pay).

Ed. Note: Sorry this post disappeared for a bit! It was a technical glitch on our end. — C. Resmer

December 02, 2008

Craftsbury Outdoor Center Sold

I interviewed a Christmas tree farmer in Craftsbury for this week's paper, but it's a destination I more often associate with cross-country skiing over frozen, Zhivagoesque lakes. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center — nordic paradise in winter, sculling sanctuary in summer — has been a model of land stewardship and outdoor education under the Spring family, which has owned the property for 32 years.

And it's likely to stay that way because 82-year-old Russell Spring recently sold the center and the 130 acres around it to a nonprofit organization that is committed to its continuation. The org's head is Dick Dreissigacker, one of the founders of Concept2, the company that makes rowing machines and sculling equipment in Morrisville.

Andrew Nemethy wrote about the details of the deal in a November 23 story in Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Looks like the only changes planned so far are good ones. "Dreissigacker plans to substantially cut ski-touring fees and promote more of a membership model," Nemethy wrote. He's also added an additional 100 acres to the center's tracts. "Schuss" fund? 

Spectrum Kids Will Shred Instead of Chill

Spectrumlogo Here's a splash of good news from our recently beleaguered friends at Spectrum Youth and Family Services: In response to all the recent press coverage about Spectrum pulling out of the Burton-sponsored Chill Program, which teaches underprivileged kids how to snowboard, Executive Director Mark Redmond reports that there's been a huge show of community generosity to get his kids on the slopes again this winter.

Thus far, donations to the Burlington nonprofit have included eight free snowboards, boots and bindings from the Alpine Shop, two rooftop snowboard racks for the Spectrum vans donated by a local Thule rep, and a "nice enough arrangement" of lift tickets from Bolton Valley. In recent weeks, individuals have also dropped by to donate helmets, gloves and goggles for the kids.

Though Redmond insists he has nothing against the people at Chill personally, he says he couldn't in good conscience allow his kids to ride Burton equipment this year due to the company's insensitivity over the issues of pornography and self-mutilation. And thus far, Redmond says he's received "tons" of letters, phone calls and emails from adults and kids who support Spectrum's stance on the issue.

"The outpouring of support has been unbelievable," Redmond tells Seven Days. "It's a nice story about the goodness of the people of Vermont who don't want to see these kids lose out."

Burlington City Council Sonnet #3

Last night at City Hall before that tiff
between Ed Adrian and Mayor Bob Kiss;
before the crowd heard briefly from the Moreaus,
and Champlain College came to air its sorrows . . .

Before the school board's budget was even broached,
and Ashe claimed political flames were being stoked;
before the merest mention of recession
or the council's slow retreat to "executive session" . . .

A man strode in. He was wearing a gray tweed coat,
and his voice aspired to strike a bipartisan note.
Greg Epler-Wood, he stated as his name.
The telecommunications are my game.

A PC burned fake logs* near where Wood sat.
Have you come, someone asked, to give a "fireside chat"?


Here's a link to the Free Press report on the meeting.

* Editor's Note: I was confused by the PC burning fake logs, so I asked Mike to clarify. Says Mike of Epler-Wood: "He basically walked up with this laptop that had that feature where it burns fake logs on its screensaver, and he showed it around." — C. Resmer

Alison Bechdel Readings Tonight and Tomorrow

Sotabechdel Back in May, Bolton cartoonist Alison Bechdel stopped creating new episodes of her 25-year-old comic strip, "Dykes to Watch Out For," which used to run in Seven Days.

If you miss the strip as much as I do, you can get your DTWOF fix by checking out The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For, a new compilation of the strips, released last month from Houghton-Mifflin. I tell you, not just because I know Alison and used to work for her, but because, being a DTWOF myself, I'm a longtime fan.

Alas, the new collection is not quite complete. Here's Alison's explanation, from her website:

I would love it if this book contained all the Dykes cartoons I ever did, from the early single-panel cartoons, to the early, pre-Mo strips, to the calendar cartoons, to the graphic novellas. But it was just too much stuff for one book. Plus it was expensive getting permission from the old publishers to reprint things.

And besides, there was a lot of older, weaker material that I was kind of happy to leave on the cutting room floor. In the end, I think ESSENTIAL represents the strip really well. It contains 390 of the extant 527 episodes. That’s 74%. Note: All the new episodes since the last collection (Invasion of the Dykes To Watch Out For, Alyson Books, 2005) are here! Numbers 458 to 527.

There’s also a 12-page “cartoonist’s introduction,” in which I look back over my career. It was hard to settle down to this task — there was a way it felt like building my own coffin — not a pleasant prospect, I assure you. But once I got into it, I think I found a way to take a historical perspective without trapping myself in amber.

For the last few weeks, Alison has been on a book tour promoting the new collection, and she finishes up with slideshows tonight and tomorrow in Vermont. Tonight at 7 p.m. she's at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, tomorrow at 7 she'll be at the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne.

I'm trying to go to the one tomorrow, but I gotta bring my 2-year-old, and I'm not sure he'll sit through it.

Photo by Jordan Silverman.

December 01, 2008

NY Lit Mag Laces into Vermont Filmmakers

Zack_bazzi_radio Two films with Vermont ties are among the targets of a new essay in the pretentiously hip biannual New York literary magazine n+1. The biting essay by A.S. Hamrah, "Jessica Biel's Hand," surveys "global-war-on-terror" movies released after 9/11, including Pearl Harbor (2001), United 93 (2006), In the Valley of Elah, The Ground Truth (2006), No End in Sight (2007), The War Tapes (2006) and Why We Fight (2005).

Seven Days wrote about The War Tapes — Jericho resident Chuck Lacy was its executive producer — in August 2006 and again in January 2007. After winning best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film made the short list for the Academy Awards.

Hamrah mostly liked that movie, which was culled from footage shot in Iraq by New Hampshire National Guardsman, but he suggests Lacy and director Deborah Scranton's finishing touches "abus[e] the pact they seem to have made with these soldiers."

Hamrah takes an even tougher line on Why We Fight, a documentary by Waitsfielder Eugene Jarecki about the military-industrial complex that won best documentary at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. After slamming Jarecki for using historical footage, Hamrah adds — cynically — that the film "invites us to contemplate its rightness even as it contemplates its rightness itself."

Hamrah's favorite war-on-terror flick? Full Battle Rattle, a 2008 documentary about an army training center in the Mojave Desert. Full Battle Rattle wasn't filmed in Iraq, and according to Hamrah, that might say something about our present Cinematic Moment. "Maybe in movies right now," he writes, "the war is best approached obliquely."

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