As Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi points out (free link), while it is illegal to leak grand jury information, it is not illegal for a news outlet to publish a story based on that leaked information. An outrageous breach of the First Amendment in Atmore, Alabama, where a reporter and the publisher of the weekly Atmore News face criminal charges for committing journalism.
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 and
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.
A little more than a month from now, “What Works in Community News” will be released by Beacon Press — and it’s already receiving significant advance buzz. In addition to pre-publication endorsements from the likes of Margaret Sullivan, Steven Waldman and Penelope Muse Abernathy, The New York Times on Sunday published an opinion essay about the local news crisis in which our book is prominently featured. Times editorial writer Serge Schmemann interviewed Ellen Clegg and me, writing (free link):
[T]here are signs that things are looking up. In their book, Ms. Clegg and Mr. Kennedy chronicle various ways in which local and regional news organizations — whether paper, digital or radio — are trying to restore local coverage. Most are nonprofits, often assisted by a number of foundations that assist news start-ups. It’s not a flood, but what is certain, they write, ‘is that the bottom-up growth of locally based news organizations has already provided communities with news that would otherwise go unreported.’”
In addition, Booklist, the publication of the American Library Association, recently gave our book a starred review. The reviewer, Alan Moores, said: “For readers who despair at the collapse of traditional media nationwide, this survey is a bolster; for journalists looking to create such viable news sources in their own communities, its a highly useful road map.”
Ellen and I are thrilled that our book is receiving such a strong reception. We hope it will serve as an inspiration to spark the rise of still more local and regional news projects across the country. In the meantime, you can keep up on developments in local news as well as our podcast at our website, What Works: The Future of Local News.
We do not live in a democracy or even a proper republic, since in a republic our delegated representatives are supposed to reflect the will of the majority. New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie is always a must-read on our broken Constitution, and his latest (free link) — on what’s wrong with the Senate — is especially worthwhile. Consider this: “Roughly half of Americans, some 169 million people, live in the nine most populous states. Together, those states get 18 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate.”
And as Bouie notes, that disparity was seen by some of the key founders as a bug, not a feature, but a bug that was needed in order to get support from the small states, which were already slated to be outvoted in the House of Representatives. James Madison referred to the Senate as “the lesser evil.” During the constitutional convention, Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson said the purpose of the national government was to empower individuals, not “the imaginary beings called states.” The 14th Amendment further enshrines individuals over the power of the states. Yet anti-democratic institutions persist, including the Senate, the Electoral College and, as a consequence, the Supreme Court.
Bouie has long shown that he knows his stuff, but in this case he’s riffing on a recent Washington Post report that I’ll confess I haven’t read. I’ll try to go back and take a look at it, but in the meantime, here’s another free link for you. And here is something I wrote last year on how government by a numerical minority is one of the reasons that this country is being torn apart.
The majority is not going to put up with being disempowered forever. The only question is how, and when, it will end.
A New Hampshire newspaper publisher who faces criminal charges for not properly labeling political advertising went on trial on Wednesday. Great lead by Damien Fisher in InDepthNH.org: “Debra Paul didn’t use the magic words, and now the community newspaper publisher is facing jail time.” If Judge Kerry Steckowych finds Paul guilty of the six criminal charges against her, he could fine her $12,000 and sentence her to six years in prison. Obviously that would be piling an outrage on top of an absurdity, but we shall see.
- The NH political-ad story is getting weirder and weirder (Aug. 28, 2022)
- Here’s the arrest warrant in the NH illegal-advertising case (Aug. 25, 2022)
- A NH newspaper publisher is arrested and charged with running illegal political ads (Aug. 25, 2022)
Authorities say it will be some time before we know exactly what happened in a fatal one-car accident on Wednesday at the Rainbow Bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada at Niagara Falls. But it’s certainly not too soon to call out Fox News’ characteristically loathsome behavior.
First, here’s what we know. Aaron Besecker of The Buffalo News reported on Thursday that there were no explosives and no signs of terrorist activity. A couple was heading across the bridge after stopping at a casino. They had tickets to a concert in Toronto that night. Suddenly the car started moving at a high rate of speed, flew over an eight-foot bridge, and burst into flames, killing both occupants. By all credible accounts, it appears to be a personal tragedy, not an attack of any kind.
But that’s not what Fox News told its viewers. Throughout Wednesday, the right-wing network’s hosts told viewers that the car was packed with explosives and may have been occupied by Islamist terrorists. As CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote in his daily newsletter, “Fox News recklessly smashed the panic button and stoked fear from coast-to-coast.” Darcy added:
Fox News had made a massive error. The type of error that should have given network brass and the reporters involved a giant pit in their stomach. But unlike respected news organizations that acknowledge when mistakes are made, Fox News has refused to issue a correction. Instead, the network stealth edited its online story, with no editors’ note of any sort.
Earlier this year, Fox paid $787.5 million to settle a libel suit brought by the Dominion voting machine company after Fox’s hosts had repeatedly promoted the lies of Trump associates that the machines were programmed to steal the 2020 election from Donald Trump and hand it to Joe Biden. It’s clear that Fox executives have learned their lesson — that is, if you’re going to make things up, make sure there are no identifiable plaintiffs who can sue you.
The nonprofit Winsted Citizen, which reportedly closed its doors earlier this week, is getting a second life. The newspaper has been acquired by American Business Media, a national company that is based in Simsbury, Connecticut, a 40-minute drive from Winsted. The Citizen’s editor and publisher, Andy Thibault, will continue as a contributing editor. The complete announcement follows.
Winsted Citizen Acquired By Conn. Media Group
The board of directors of the Connecticut News Consortium Inc, announced today that American Business Media LLC, a Simsbury, Connecticut-based national media company, has acquired the Winsted Citizen newspaper.
“There were news reports earlier this week that the publication is closing. That is not true. We are very pleased that the work of the Consortium on this publication and all of those involved in creating and producing the Winsted Citizen will continue under new ownership,” said Jedd Gould, a board member and spokesperson for the Consortium. “Our objective in this has always been to find ways to connect the community through news, events, and inspiration. We’re delighted to turn this project over to someone who shares our vision, and has the media infrastructure to support and grow it.”
American Business Media publishes seven magazines across the country, numerous email newsletters, and more than two dozen conferences at venues from Mohegan Sun to Los Angeles. Its CEO, Publisher and Editor-in-chief is Vincent Valvo. He has garnered dozens of journalism awards over his career, has served on the board of directors of the Connecticut chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and was president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.
“I believe in the power and the mission of community journalism,” Valvo said. “I have been cheering on the creation of the Winsted Citizen since the first of the year. I’m delighted to be able to ensure that it will have a strong future.”
Valvo said he expects to see the publication evolve. It will have a greater emphasis on Litchfield County, but will be adding stronger online and social media offerings, community events, and articles that dig deeply into the fabric of the region and its people.
“We believe in the power of print publications,” Valvo said. “But we are wholly aware that people get their news and information from a wide swath of sources. We’re going to expand and strengthen how this publication connects with residents. It’s the only way for modern community journalism to thrive.”
Valvo said there will be no layoffs and no changes to the Winsted Citizen’s editorial production. Founding Publisher and Editor Andy Thibault will continue as a contributing editor.
The transaction was effective immediately.
The Plymouth Independent, a high-profile nonprofit news project, has made its long-awaited debut. The site right now is leading with a story by former Boston Globe reporter Andrea Estes on the town’s affordable housing crisis.
Estes is just one of several Globe folks involved in the site: the editor, Mark Pothier, was a high-ranking editor at the Globe, and Globe veteran Walter Robinson is listed as an adviser to the board. Estes is one of two staff reporters; the other is Fred Thys, formerly of WBUR Radio and VTDigger.
Notably, the Independent has a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, but not on X/Twitter. I’m sure we’re going to see more and more of that. It’s also one of two nonprofit news sites to launch in Eastern Massachusetts this month, along with The Belmont Voice.
Update: The Citizen has been acquired by American Business Media and will continue to publish. See our latest here.
Connecticut’s Winsted Citizen, launched last February with funding by the consumer advocate Ralph Nader, is shutting down. The Citizen got off to a rocky start over a dispute with Nader over how much money he had actually pledged. But the editor and publisher of the paper, Andy Thibault, told Ellen Clegg and me on the “What Works” podcast last June that he and Nader had reached an understanding and were working cooperatively.
Andrew Larson reports in the Hartford Business Journal that the Citizen was able to produce nine monthly editions before shutting down. Even though Thibault said the deficits were shrinking over time thanks to reader support, the ongoing losses became unsustainable.
In a statement that Thibault sent to Ellen and me, he said, “We beat the Grim Reaper every month for most of the year. Our best month financially resulted in our lowest deficit. Now, our quest regrettably has become the impossible dream. It sure was great — despite numerous stumbles, obstacles and heartaches — while it lasted.”
Best wishes to Thibault and his staff on whatever comes next.