Media notes: Capitol corps dwindles, WDEV changes

A few miscellaneous items from our local media world, some not so fresh but all worth a comment: Another loss for the capitol press corps, a change at the helm of Common Sense Radio, and a further diminishment of its lefty counterpart.

VPB shrinkage. The once-proud Vermont Press Bureau, jewel in the crown of the Mitchell Family Organ, continues to suffer from the declining fortunes of the newspaper business. Not long ago, the VPB had three full-time reporters. Now, it has only one — the redoubtable Peter Hirschfeld.

The practical effect is that Hirschfeld is basically responsible for one story per day (a heavy load in itself), while the Herald and Times Argus will depend on the Associated Press for other Statehouse news. I have lots of respect for Dave Gram and company, but every time we lose a pair of eyes on state government, the available information dwindles.

I have to wonder how long Hirschfeld will stick around. It’s a daunting challenge and the Mitchells don’t pay very well (understandable, given their financial circumstances). How long before he hears the siren song of the PR/Communications world that has proven irresistible to so many underpaid scribes in the past?

And if/when he does move on, will the Mitchells replace him, or simply shut down the VPB entirely?  

The Robster apparently departs. Readers with encyclopedic memories will recall the recent big news from the small pond of Vermont conservatism: the Robster, Rob Roper, was named the new chief of the Ethan Allen Institute. (This frightening “Your hide will make a fine poncho” photograph is his official mugshot from the EAI website. Yikes!)

Roper’s tens of devotees were on tenterhooks: would his ascension to the top of El Jefe General John McLaughry’s “think” tank imperil his future as the deceptively glib host of “Common Sense Radio,” the EAI-funded conservative hour on WDEV Radio?

The answer, sadly, apparently, is yes. I don’t know it for a fact, but I did happen to catch the opening of CSR recently, and the Generic Announcer introduced the host: not Rob Roper, but Bill Sayre.

Awwww. Sleepy Bill Sayre, the man who always sounds like he just woke up from a long winter’s nap. Is this really the best that EAI could do? A guy who projects no energy or personality whatsoever?

If you think I’m exaggerating, try listening sometime. I dare you. However, I wouldn’t advise doing so while operating heavy machinery.

I’d love to see the ratings for WDEV before and after 11:00 a.m. I bet they lose at least three-quarters of Mark Johnson’s audience when that conservative crapfest comes on.

Less and less “Equal Time.” Central Vermont radio listeners with encyclopedic memories will recall the salad days of “Equal Time Radio,” the liberal counterpart to “Common Sense Radio” (formerly “True North Radio”), heard weekdays at 1:00 and hosted by Progressive stalwart Anthony Pollina.

(Brief explainer: WDEV does not program either show. The airtime is bought by the shows’ producers, who then have to find a funding source. That’s why True North collapsed; it couldn’t raise enough money to stay on the air.)

When Pollina decided to run for the State Senate, he had to step away from the mic. Energy activist Carl Etnier took his place. But he struggled to get funding, and never had enough to make it a solid paying gig. (It also wasn’t that great a program; Etnier is deeply knowledgeable about energy issues, but he’s not a dynamic on-air presence* and he never successfully broadened the program to include other topics.) Finally, he and/or WDEV struck a funding deal with Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

*Nothing against Etnier, just that hosting a radio show isn’t his strong suit. It wasn’t Pollina’s either, for that matter.

Over time — both before and after VBSR entered the picture — ETR has gradually diminished. The Friday edition was replaced by one hour of The Thom Hartmann Show — Thom’s weekly hour with Bernie Sanders. When VBSR came on board, the Wednesday show began to focus on business issues from a leftish perspective, and the Thursday hour was given over to Small Dog Electronics as a sort of call-in computer news and advice program. (Small Dog founder Don Mayer is one of the big players in VBSR.)

Now, the next step in the slow extinction of Equal Time Radio: VBSR has taken over the Wednesday edition for a new show called “The Vermont Conversation,” hosted by David Goodman, writer, Waterbury resident, and brother of national radio firebrand Amy Goodman.  VBSR head Andrea Cohen explained the new program:

“It will shine a light on important issues that Vermonters and our businesses deal with every day and on the opportunities for positive change in our state, and it will help keep the Vermont community informed of VBSR activities.”

I think ETR is still intact on Mondays and Tuesdays, but frankly I don’t listen to much midday radio other than Mark Johnson, and the WDEV and ETR websites haven’t been updated recently.

Overall, the program shifts mean that WDEV no longer has a balance of paid talk shows. It has conservative talk five days a week, and live, local, all-topics liberal talk no more than two days a week. I’d be more upset about this if it wasn’t for the fact that Common Sense Radio is so unlistenable. CSR preaches to a very small choir, and has no influence at all on the general political conversation in Vermont.  

5 thoughts on “Media notes: Capitol corps dwindles, WDEV changes

  1. And even though we don’t occupy any bandwidth, there’s always plenty of lively lefty banter and debate available at the click of a finger!

  2. any conservative with an engaging personality who doesn’t attack women and the browns, or immediately compare any who wants to save capitalism from itself with Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.  But then again, if CSR found someone, they certainly wouldn’t put him or her on the air.  Conservative radio serves only to rile up the base.

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