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December 12, 2013

Breaking: New Jersey Guy Comes to Vermont and Says Stuff, Sources Say

By now you know that I have absolutely nothing to tell you about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's speech to some 650 Vermont Republicans Wednesday night at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

As has been exhaustively reported by your loyal press corps, the event sold out weeks ago — well before Vermont GOP elders let it be known that reporters would be denied entry. And none of us was smart enough to grab a $50 ticket before the grabbing got done.

What a bummer. 

So all we can offer you, dear reader, are a couple of badly lit photos of the fairgrounds taken by one very cold, and slightly under-dressed reporter. Like this: 


Or a shot of the empty ballroom taken when event organizer and behind-the-scenes GOPer Richard Wobby took pity on said reporter and ushered him in and out for a very brief, pre-Christie glimpse:


Or, true to form for this navel-gazing reporter, a photo of two fellow journalists — VTDigger's John Herrick and Anne Galloway — warming up at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street, as they prepare to embark upon the same fruitless quest:


And, oh yeah, since we're living in the 21st century and no event goes undocumented on Twitter, I can even embed a couple of tweets from those who managed to make it inside. Such as those from former Burlington city councilor Ed Adrian, a staunch Democrat and Twitter junkie (surely he'll post a wrap-up on his website, too):

And, from the other side of the aisle, we can hear from Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset), who dispatched a couple tweets of her own Wednesday night:

But beyond all that, I can't tell you a thing. And that's a problem.

Not because I personally care to see the governor of a state through which I drive as fast as I possibly can on the I-95 corridor. And not because I'm curious what a likely candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has to say for himself.

No, it's a problem because I can't tell you about everything else that (presumably) happened inside the event Wednesday night, such as:

  • Who exactly ponied up $10,000 for two tickets to a pre-pre-party with the Garden State gov — and why? More importantly, what kind of access did those donors get to the Vermont lawmakers who hosted the gala? And what kind of favors will they be looking for in the future?
  • What are rank-and-file Republicans saying about the Vermont GOP's new leadership? Rep. Komline says it's "a new day" for the party, but what does that really mean? Are they likely to refill their empty party coffers? Are they planning to run a competitive candidate for governor? Does anybody know how to turn around a party in serious decline?
  • Most importantly, what did Lt. Gov. Phil Scott have to say as he warmed up the crowd and introduced Christie? Though Scott's the highest-ranking Republican elected official in the state, he remains an enigma even to people like me, who are charged with, you know, covering the dude. Scott works hards to maintain his ostensibly nonpartisan, "nice-guy" image when speaking to a general audience, but what did he say to a room filled to the brim with party activists?

Wish I could tell you!

In covering how we weren't able to cover Christie's speech, we reporters have done a pretty shitty job of explaining why it matters. We've made it sound like it's about us. It's not. It's about you.

In a column he wrote for VTDigger, veteran journalist Jon Margolis makes that very point far more persuasively than I: that, like us or not, our job is to provide a thorough, dispassionate account of what happens when money and power mingle behind closed doors. That we need to be there so that you can be there. 

Don't get me wrong. Twitter is great. I'm really glad that Adrian and Komline and others could provide a glimpse into the room. But that doesn't replace having a horde of reporters — television, radio, print, online — in the room, sniffing around for different stories and angles, doing an individually imperfect but collectively reasonable job of covering an important event.

Or, at least, covering some dude from New Jersey talking about stuff. 

I mean, I think that's what happened. But I wasn't there, so what do I know?

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