Friday, January 06, 2006

The Burlington Free Press: Still sucking in 2006

I’ve been prodded out of my blogging lethargy at last by the Burlington Free Press. I know finding things to gripe about in the Freep is like shooting fish in a barrel, but the past couple of weeks, the paper has really outdone itself (and that’s saying a lot.)

This all started last month, when I noticed that the BFP had been running a series called “Lives Well Lived” described as “stories celebrating Vermonters who died in 2005.”

These were stories of regular folks who died, plucked from the obituaries and given the sort of restrospective celebration usually only given to famous or otherwise "notable" people at death. It’s a great idea, and represents a return to local journalism – the opposite of the sensational, breaking news-driven stuff that usually dominates front pages. But it wasn’t the Freep’s idea.

For the past four or five years, The Valley News has been running essentially the same series, called A Life. These beautifully written stories appear in the paper every Monday. (Full disclosure: I used to be a reporter there, and worked on the series myself back in 2001 and 2002.) Here are some recent examples, in case you're curious. I know, it's not like nobody else could have come up with this idea. But it's annoying that smaller papers like the VN don't get much credit for excellent work like this.

http://www.vnews.com/12262005/2797027.htm
http://www.vnews.com/12122005/2760400.htm
http://www.vnews.com/11212005/2735479.htm


Leaving that series aside, the anti-union bias in the Free Press’ coverage of the various teacher strikes in the area has been deplorable. In many cases, no attempt whatever has been made to present both sides of the story. It’s a good time to remember that Gannett is one of the most notorious union busters in the media.

And the Free Press’ op-ed columns – or “heartburn row,” as I affectionately refer to them - have always showcased reactionary troglodytes like Cal Thomas and William Raspberry. But the most consistently infuriating, at least lately, has been Kathleen Parker. She took time out from defending Dubya’s wiretapping recently to dash off a hate-filled, poisonous rant about how bloggers only write hate-filled, poisonous rants. She places bloggers a notch below al Qaida and Osama, describing them as “insidious enemies of decency, humanity and civility.” Oh my!

Bloggers are also uncivilized children "who shriek Gotcha! when they catch some weary eage earner in a mistake or oversight… when a mainstream journalist stumbles, they pile on like so many savages.” Sounds like someone’s been caught out a few times, eh Kath? Imagine, people having the gall to correct journalists’ errors.

The blog backlash labors on (I think we’re in the second or third wave of it now) and taking cheap shots at bloggers continues to be a blood sport for the more backwards among the traditional journalists – or reliable column fodder when they run out of ideas. They might as well have “I am threatened by blogging” tattooed on their foreheads.

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