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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Vermont Senate Unanimously Passes Media Shield Bill

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 4:35 PM

Freelance journalist Hilary Niles testifies in favor of a shield law in the Senate Government Operations Committee. - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Freelance journalist Hilary Niles testifies in favor of a shield law in the Senate Government Operations Committee.
The Vermont Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to provide protections for local journalists — and their sources.

Under the media shield bill, journalists could not be compelled to reveal confidential sources or the information that those sources provide.

S.96 also limits when a reporter can be forced to disclose information provided by a nonconfidential source to situations in which the material is highly relevant to a significant court case, unattainable by other means and when there's a "compelling need for disclosure."

"Lately, as we have seen, the press has come under assault like never before," said Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), who cosponsored the bill. "It is therefore timely that we review their role and how to protect it."

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Media Note: Vermont PBS Reaps $56 Million in FCC Spectrum Auction

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont PBS board chair Patricia Gabel, left, and station president Holly Groschner
Vermont PBS announced Friday that it sold one of its four broadcast licenses for $56 million, money it plans to use to fund new programs and expand services for years to come.

The station said the loss of the license would not cause any reduction in over-the-air coverage. Instead, the windfall could transform the sleepy station into one of the most financially powerful media organizations in Vermont.

Vermont PBS, which airs syndicated shows such as "Sesame Street" and "NOVA," along with local productions "Outdoor Journal" and "Vermont This Week," says it plans to use the bulk of the money to provide expanded offerings in both over-the-air and digital platforms. It has no plans to use the money for "brick and mortar" improvements, Vermont PBS president Holly Groschner said during a press conference inside the station's Colchester studios.

"We are doubling down on the Vermontness of our broadcast," Groschner said. "We are hoping to be able to produce more Vermont content and [explore] more Vermont issues."

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Media Note: Connecticut Couple to Buy the Hardwick Gazette

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 1:32 PM

The Hardwick Gazette office - FILE: COURTESY OF HARDWICK GAZETTE
  • File: Courtesy of Hardwick Gazette
  • The Hardwick Gazette office
After a long search for a buyer, Ross Connelly is selling the Hardwick Gazette to a couple from Stamford, Conn. Ray and Kim Small will purchase the 128-year-old weekly newspaper for an undisclosed price.

Ray Small entered Connelly's essay contest — an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to give away the Gazette — and visited the paper multiple times while waiting for the results. Although Connelly failed to get enough entrants to follow through with the giveaway, he reached out to the Smalls afterwards and negotiated a sale, which is scheduled to close Friday.

According to a news release, the Smalls have worked at "various corporations in both the United States and Europe. His specialty is business reporting and management and hers is business development." They are in the process of moving to Hardwick, Connelly said, and one of their two adult sons may join them in the venture.

Connelly, who bought the community newspaper with his late wife in 1986, estimates he put out 1,550 issues during his tenure. "The newspaper just needs more energy than I have," he said.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Editors’ Note: After Ashe’s Election, Seven Days Updates Conflict-of-Interest Policy

Posted By and on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 3:28 PM

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe delivers remarks Wednesday on the Senate floor. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe delivers remarks Wednesday on the Senate floor.
When Paula Routly and Tim Ashe began dating in 2002, she was the publisher and coeditor of Seven Days and he was a union organizer for United Academics. Nearly 15 years into their relationship, her job title remains the same. His, however, has changed.

In 2004, Ashe won his first of three races for the Burlington City Council. Four years later, he won his first of five bids for the Vermont Senate. In 2011, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for mayor of Burlington.

Throughout Ashe’s political ascent, Seven Days has addressed Routly’s potential conflict of interest in a variety of ways, depending on Ashe’s role at the time. When he ran for mayor, Routly recused herself from assigning and editing stories related to the race — and prepared herself for the possibility that he would run the city her newspaper covered so closely.

“I had to ask myself: What if Tim wins?” Routly wrote in a March 2012 story about other so-called “power couples” in Vermont.

He didn’t — and she returned to her role managing the Seven Days news team, recusing herself when his name came up and running a one-line disclosure when it appeared in print.

On Wednesday morning, Ashe did win — this time a race for president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate.

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Media Note: After 31 Years, Dave Gram Leaves the Associated Press

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 8:37 AM

  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Dave Gram
When Vermont’s political press corps files into the Statehouse Wednesday for the start of the legislative session, it will be missing one of its most veteran, talented and beloved scribes.

Associated Press reporter Dave Gram quietly left the newswire’s Montpelier bureau Monday after more than 31 years on the job.

“I’m just feeling very grateful for the career I’ve been allowed to have,” the 60-year-old Montpelier resident said in a brief interview that afternoon. “Grateful especially to the people of the state of Vermont, which is a pretty unique place — and which I think can offer some real value to a country figuring out how to get back to its democratic roots.”

He paused. “And it’s been a lot of fun.”

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Media Note: Associated Press Layoffs Hit Montpelier Bureau

Posted By on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 9:24 PM

  • Associated Press
  • AP logo
The Associated Press’ dwindling Montpelier bureau is set to lose one of its three remaining reporters, according to a spokeswoman for the news cooperative.

The AP announced Friday that it was cutting 25 positions throughout its worldwide news division, but it did not immediately disclose which offices would suffer layoffs. CNN’s Brian Stelter first reported Friday in his “Reliable Sources” newsletter that Montpelier would join New Orleans, Albany, N.Y., and Charleston, S.C., on the list.

Lauren Easton, the AP’s media relations manager, told Seven Days Monday that in Montpelier, “One position is affected.” She declined to elaborate.

A decade ago, the AP’s Vermont staff included at least five reporters and a photographer. As of last week, only three employees remained: bureau chief Wilson Ring and veteran reporters Dave Gram and Lisa Rathke.

Reached Monday, Ring and Gram declined to comment, referring inquiries to New England editor Bill Kole, who also declined to speak. Rathke could not be reached for comment.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Media Note: Four Reporters, Producers Leaving WCAX

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 4:20 PM

Gina Bullard, center, with Tyler Dumont and Gary Sadowsky - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Gina Bullard, center, with Tyler Dumont and Gary Sadowsky
WCAX-TV is losing some of its top talent, according to news director Anson Tebbetts.

The departures include morning show host Gina Bullard, reporter Alex Apple, reporter Eliza Larson and producer Kristen Tripodi. According to Tebbetts, all the departures are voluntary and all of the positions will be filled.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Media Note: Burlington Free Press Lays Off Four Staffers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Tuesday's Burlington Free Press - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Tuesday's Burlington Free Press
Updated at 11:04 p.m.

The Burlington Free Press on Tuesday laid off four employees — including three newsroom staffers — in what appears to be part of nationwide downsizing by its corporate parent, Gannett.

Among those let go were features writer Sally Pollak, news reporter Cory Dawson and sports writer Lauren Read, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation. Hours after the news broke Tuesday, the paper acknowledged the layoffs in a story on its website. In addition to the newsroom staffers, it said an employee in the advertising department was cut.

Pollak worked for the Free Press for 25 years, first as a sports writer and most recently as a food writer. She lamented the news on Facebook Tuesday afternoon.

“It was a good run: 25 years covering Vermont,” Pollak wrote. “Thanks to everyone for talking with me for stories and reading my stuff.”

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Media Note: Getler Out, Fogler In at Burlington Free Press

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 6:01 PM

Burlington Free Press website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Burlington Free Press website
After 22 months on the job, Burlington Free Press publisher Al Getler has been replaced by his predecessor, the newspaper announced Thursday. The Gannett-owned daily provided no explanation for Getler’s departure. He declined to comment.

Returning to the paper’s top job is Jim Fogler, who served as publisher for four years before leaving in September 2014 to become vice president of business development at Party City. Fogler returned to journalism — and Gannett — in January, when he took a job as publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal.

According to the Free Press story announcing the transition, Fogler will now publish both papers. Even after he took the job in Poughkeepsie, the story said, he continued to commute between the two regions, because his family remained in South Burlington. 

“I’m excited to be back, and I look forward to reconnecting with the community as well as the team here,” Fogler told the Free Press’ Dan D’Ambrosio. “My plan is to split my time evenly between the two sites.”

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Media Note: In Essay Contest, Nobody Wins the Hardwick Gazette

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 8:04 PM

The Hardwick Gazette office - FILE: COURTESY OF HARDWICK GAZETTE
  • File: Courtesy of Hardwick Gazette
  • The Hardwick Gazette office
An attempt to give the Hardwick Gazette to whoever wrote the most compelling essay has failed. Publisher and owner Ross Connelly didn't get enough submissions to follow through.

Connelly, who is 71 and has spent three decades as publisher of the Northeast Kingdom weekly, announced the contest back in June. The concept was simple: People would submit a 400-word essay along with a $175 entry fee, and a panel of judges would pick the winner.

News outlets across the country, including the New York Times and Washington Post, picked up the story. Despite the media buzz, there apparently aren't many people interested in the grueling job of running a local newspaper in a remote, rural community. Connelly had determined that he needed 700 entries to make the contest financially viable for him; the Associated Press reported earlier today that he'd received only 140. 

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