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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Walters: Bennington Banner Faces Backlash Over Las Vegas Massacre Cartoon

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 5:42 PM

An image of the cartoon in the Bennington Banner - WCAX
  • WCAX
  • An image of the cartoon in the Bennington Banner
Updated on October 5, 2017.

The owners of the Bennington Banner were trying to tamp down a firestorm of criticism over a political cartoon in Tuesday's paper that addressed the Las Vegas mass shooting. Top executives of its owner, New England Newspapers, have written public apologies, and the firm's president made a quick trip from company headquarters in Pittsfield, Mass., to Bennington Wednesday to meet with offended readers.

The cartoon, by syndicated cartoonist Randall Enos, included the legend "Whatever Happens In Vegas..." above a drawing of a haphazard pile of bodies, drawn in outline without features, scattered on the ground. More than 1,000 people posted comments on the Banner's Facebook page objecting, in very strong terms, to the publication of the cartoon.

The story has brought widespread attention to the paper — so much so that when you Google "Bennington Banner," the first autofill option is "cartoon." Not only have national media picked it up, but so have papers in Great Britain and Australia.

Enos is an illustrator and cartoonist with more than 60 years of experience. When reached at his Connecticut home Wednesday afternoon, he was apparently unaware of the controversy he had sparked.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Walters: Radio Vet Steve Cormier Buys WDEV

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 10:09 PM

Steve Cormier and Tom Brennan during their days as Burlington radio personalities "Corm and the Coach" - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Steve Cormier and Tom Brennan during their days as Burlington radio personalities "Corm and the Coach"
After a long search for the right buyer, Ken Squier found his man working right there next to him.

In a Friday afternoon press release, Squier announced the sale of the Waterbury-based Radio Vermont Group, which includes WDEV-AM and FM, to the firm’s director of sales, Steve Cormier.

“I am thrilled that after 87 years [of Squier family ownership] the station will remain among Vermonters,” said Squier in the release.

Squier’s father, Lloyd, founded WDEV in 1931, and the station continues to offer predominantly local programming. Ken Squier, 82, has worked at the station since he was 12 years old; he also achieved national fame as a NASCAR broadcaster, and he is a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In addition to WDEV, the Radio Vermont Group also operates 101 the One, which plays classic hit songs, and country station WLVB-FM in Morrisville.

Squier had been quietly looking for a buyer for a couple of years. His search was first reported by Seven Days in June. At the time, he said he was looking for “a Vermonter or some Vermonters who are interested in and dedicated to local programming.”

Cormier would seem to be a good fit. Before joining the Radio Vermont Group in 2015, he was station manager at WTSA Radio in Brattleboro. And that followed a 26-year run in Burlington broadcasting, most famously as cohost of the “Corm and the Coach” morning show.

“Local radio, there’s nothing like it!” Cormier said. WDEV’s local-heavy format, he added, “ain’t going anywhere.” That includes Squier, who does weekday sportscasts on WDEV and the renowned “Music to Go to the Dump By” show Saturdays at 9 a.m.

“I want him there every day,” said Cormier of Squier, who will serve as an advisor as well. “‘The Dump’ show, sports, until he decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore.”

Cormier also plans no changes at WLVB-FM, and minimal changes, if any, at 101 the One.

Cormier professed a personal commitment to maintaining WDEV’s emphasis on local programming. “I’ve worked for Clear Channel,” he said of the nation’s biggest radio conglomerate, now known as iHeartMedia. “I saw what they did. They didn’t care about their communities.”

The sale is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to take a few months. Cormier would not discuss the sale price, referring inquiries to Squier, who did not respond to requests for comment.

There will be one departure from Radio Vermont. Eric Michaels, vice president, general manager and cohost of WDEV’s “Morning News Service,” is resigning. Cormier noted that Michaels has “done wonderful things” in bolstering the company over the years.

“For 30 years, Eric has managed to maintain and grow the Radio Vermont Group as a relevant broadcasting voice in Vermont,” Squier’s press release said.

Cormier promised no changes, but he realizes that the broadcasting industry is constantly evolving. And WDEV itself has changed — slowly, deliberately — over time. He plans a collaborative approach to the future.

“There are a lot of bright people at those stations,” he said. “Any major decision I make, I’ll talk to Ken about.”

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

VPR Announces President and CEO Turnau Stepping Down

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 5:06 PM

  • Courtesy: Vermont Public Radio
  • Robin Turnau
Vermont Public Radio announced Tuesday that President and CEO Robin Turnau, who has led the station since 2009, plans to step down in March.

“Reaching this decision has been very difficult for me,” Turnau, a Charlotte resident, said in a statement released by VPR. “I care deeply about VPR and it has been an integral part of my life for the past 28 years. Every one of those years has been incredibly rewarding, and waking up and coming to work each day continues to be a joy. I’ve been working at VPR for more than half my life and I realized it was time for a new challenge.”

Turnau, who started working at VPR in 1989 as membership and volunteer coordinator, said she has no plans for what she will do after stepping down.

The announcement comes as the station recently wrapped up a $10 million capital campaign to pay for a large expansion and renovation of VPR’s Colchester headquarters and to establish a fund to bolster programming.

“She has led our beloved institution during a time of intense media disruption,” VPR Board chair Peggy Williams said in a prepared statement. “Thanks to her dedication, hard work and professionalism, VPR is stronger than ever and poised for an even greater future. She has kept our focus firmly on doing what’s best for VPR’s audience.”

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Walters: WDEV Radio For Sale

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 5:12 PM

  • File photo
Ken Squier, owner of the Radio Vermont Group, has confirmed that his company is for sale. It's a milestone for a fixture of Vermont broadcasting, held in the same family for 86 years.

The heart of the company is "the friendly pioneer," Waterbury's WDEV-AM, founded by Ken's father, Lloyd Squier, in 1931. In recent years, the group has grown to a total of four transmitters plus four lower-powered "translators" that boost a station's signal in weak spots.

The company operates two streams of programming: WDEV-AM and FM broadcast local news, talk, sports, music and weather; and "The One" is a music station that plays hit songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. (The music stations were devoted to classical music until Vermont Public Radio built out a statewide classical network.)

In an age of mega-corporate broadcasters and national syndication, WDEV is a throwback, still producing the bulk of its programming on-site with a strong focus on serving its community. Squier says he's looking for a buyer that shares his values and commitment.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Media Note: Stowe Reporter Owners Buy Shelburne, Charlotte Newspapers

Posted By on Wed, May 31, 2017 at 6:26 PM

Shelburne News homepage - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Shelburne News homepage
The owners of three central Vermont newspapers — the Stowe Reporter, Waterbury Record, and the News & Citizen of Morrisville — are expanding into Chittenden County with the purchase of the Shelburne News and the Citizen, which covers Charlotte and Hinesburg.

According to the Stowe Reporter, which announced the sale Wednesday in a story on its website, the deal took effect last week. The article quoted Stowe Reporter group publisher Greg Popa as saying that the company's move into Chittenden County was a “natural” one, since it already had advertising connections there through its membership in the Burlington Area Newspaper Group.

Holly Johnson, president of Wind Ridge Publishing and Wind Ridge Books, previously owned the Citizen and the News. Her buyers, not identified in the Reporter story, are Bob Miller and Norb Garrett, who own a trio of weekly newspapers in San Clemente, Dana Point and Capistrano, California. Miller and Garrett acquired the Stowe Reporter Group in 2014.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Walters: A Shield for Vermont Media

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Gov. Phil Scott, surrounded by journalists, signs the shield bill into law. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott, surrounded by journalists, signs the shield bill into law.
Here's a valuable lesson for politicians: The best way to get maximum media coverage for a bill signing is to sign a bill that affects the media. The governor's ceremonial office was unusually crowded Wednesday morning as Gov. Phil Scott signed S.96, the media shield bill, into law.

The bill, which sailed through the legislature with very little opposition, will protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources or release unpublished material. Vermont becomes the 41st state to afford such protections to reporters.

"[The bill] creates a new statutory privilege protecting journalists from the compelled disclosure of confidential sources or other information received in confidence," Scott said. "This protection enables sources, from whistleblowers to victims of a crime, to feel confident in their ability to speak freely to the press."

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Walters: 'Dog Gone?

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 2:27 PM

Lou Varricchio, former Vermont Watchdog bureau chief - COURTESY OF LOU VARRICCHIO
  • courtesy of Lou Varricchio
  • Lou Varricchio, former Vermont Watchdog bureau chief
Sad news for consumers of partisan right-wing journalism. The online outlet called Vermont Watchdog appears to be in suspended animation — its future subject to the plans of its distant benefactor.

On March 29, we brought you the story of Vermont Watchdog's new bureau chief, Lou Varricchio, a veteran newsman who had been running the Middlebury-based weekly Vermont Eagle. He joined the Watchdog in January with plans to make the website a serious player in Vermont journalism.

Must be a Seven Days curse. Less than four weeks after the story was published, Varricchio had left Vermont Watchdog and returned to the Eagle. What's more, the online outlet hasn't posted an original story since April 13.

"Watchdog is being reorganized, and I left," said Varricchio when reached by phone at the Eagle offices. He referred me to Watchdog's national headquarters and said, "Beyond that, I can't tell you anything."

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Walters: Vermont Shield Bill Passes Key House Vote

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 5:55 PM

VTDigger's Mark Johnson interviews Paul Heintz of Seven Days and the Vermont Press Association after Wednesday's House vote on S.96. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • VTDigger's Mark Johnson interviews Paul Heintz of Seven Days and the Vermont Press Association after Wednesday's House vote on S.96.
A bill that would protect reporters from being forced to divulge confidential sources and hand over unpublished work material is one step away from the governor’s desk.

On Wednesday, the Vermont House approved S.96, the “shield bill,” on a lopsided voice vote after minimal debate. The chamber must reaffirm its approval in another vote Thursday, but barring a very unusual event, the bill is on track for final passage.

S.96 had earlier passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. Gov. Phil Scott’s office did not immediately return a call for comment; but during the gubernatorial campaign, Scott expressed support for a shield law with some qualifications — including an exception for cases where information cannot be obtained elsewhere. That exception is included in S.96.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Media Note: Herald Retreats to Rutland County

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 5:49 PM

The Rutland Herald building - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • The Rutland Herald building
The Rutland Herald is pulling two veteran reporters off their beats in Bennington, Windsor and Windham counties in order to refocus on Rutland County, the paper announced Thursday.

"We're going back to our roots," editor Steven Pappas said in an interview. "We're going back to where these papers built their cores initially. Some people are saying we're pulling up stakes, but we have a business decision to make."

The retrenchment comes nearly eight months after a Maine publisher and New Hampshire printing executive agreed to buy the financially struggling Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus from a local family. At least eight reporters, editors, photographers and paginators left the Herald newsroom last summer and fall. In recent months, just three full-time reporters have remained.

That, Pappas said, "left us feeling a little vulnerable" in the two counties where the Herald and Times Argus are based.

"We are really going to be making a concerted push in Washington and Rutland counties," he said.

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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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