Burlington City Hall. Photo (cc) 2013 by Beyond My Ken.

Burlington, Vermont, is well covered by three independent news organizations, and they’re all tracking the story of three young men of Palestinian descent who were shot and injured by a white man Saturday evening. Although the national media are covering the unfolding events in what is being described as a hate crime, checking in with local media is always a good idea.

VTDigger, a digital nonprofit, is the largest news outlet in Vermont. In its early days, it focused on public policy and politics at the state level, but in recent years it has covered local news as well. Right now the site has two stories up about the shootings. One, by Shaun Robinson, reports on the arraignment this morning of the 48-year-old suspect, who has pleaded innocent to three counts of attempted second-degree murder. The other, by Paul Heintz and Auditi Guha, is a Sunday night update to Digger’s ongoing coverage of the shooting.

Also covering the unfolding events is Seven Days, a for-profit alternative weekly with a robust digital presence that is the city’s leading news source following round after round of cuts by Gannett at the daily Burlington Free Press. Like VTDigger, Seven Days has published two stories — one, by Sasha Goldstein, on the arrest of the suspect, and the other, by Derek Brouwer, Courtney Lamdin and Colin Flanders, on the background of the victims.

The third independent news source, Vermont Public, has posted a story on the suspect’s arraignment by Liam Elder-Connors and Elodie Reed, along with (as I’m writing this) an embedded live video of a news conference being held by the Burlington Police. Also online is an article about the arrest written by Reed, Brittany Patterson and Kevin Trevellyan.

As for the Free Press, what can I say? I hit a paywall when I tried to access the paper’s website; I’ll assume that they have coverage of the shootings. But the front page of today’s print edition, which I was able to get to through my USA Today subscription, features three headlines, none about the shooting. On page 6 of the USA Today insert that’s included with the Free Press is an Associated Press story about the shootings. Meanwhile, VTDigger’s first story about the case was published on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Again, I don’t want to suggest that the Free Press hasn’t been covering the story vigorously on its website. But at moment when the nation is looking to Burlington, you’d think Gannett would drop the paywall, at least for a few days.

Finally, I should note that the Burlington area is served by several local TV newscasts as well, and I can see that all of them are covering the story vigorously. All of them are owned by chains, which doesn’t make them bad. It’s just that I’m tracking what independent news outlets are doing.

I have not named the suspect. At this early stage of the story, it’s perfectly appropriate for local news organizations to report his name, but there is certainly no need for me to contribute to his notoriety. The victims, all 20, are Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad. According to Digger, the three men are students at universities in the U.S. — Brown University, Haverford College and Trinity College. All three are reportedly graduates of the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker institution in the West Bank.

And, sadly, the hate continues. The Digger story by Heintz and Guha includes some bone-chilling details about antisemitic rhetoric at a protest outside Burlington City Hall following the shootings. You can read the story if you’d like to know more.

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