Nov 22 2013

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Sign on Letter to expressing concern over VPR’s coverage of pipeline

Dear Patti Daniels,

 Many members of the Vermont community — including VPR members — were deeply troubled by your show on November 11 that highlighted Don Gilbert and the Vermont Gas System plans to extend a pipeline through Vermont, under Lake Champlain, and to New York State.

 Dozens of people have already commented on the webpage for the show itself.  We are not writing now to argue the facts of the project.  We are writing to question the news judgment of the Vermont Edition team in the decision to represent primarily the pro-pipeline perspective when right under your eyes is a burgeoning movement opposing it.

 It has already been pointed out that Mr. Gilbert was a guest for a second time — in the studio and for the entire segment.  The other main guest, Bruce Hiland, did not actually represent the opposition movement because, as Jane Lindholm ultimately discovered, he is not opposed to the pipeline.  He doesn’t want it in his town, to be sure, but that position can be easily dismissed as NIMBYism.  NIMBYism is not representative of the true nature of the opposition movement.  We know for a fact that there were dozens of opponents calling on Monday, but — again for a second time — you chose to give the floor to Tim Searles, and also to Jamie Stewart.  These people already have a significant platform and they added nothing new to the discussion.

 Perhaps you missed the news on September 10 that 600 people showed up to a public hearing on the project, most of whom were opposed?  Perhaps you have not heard — clearly — that 5 out of the necessary 6 landowners in Cornwall are refusing to let the pipeline come onto their land?  Perhaps you missed the press release that three-fourths of the land in Monkton is tied up for the same reason?  Perhaps you have not done your research to find out that hundreds and hundreds of comments have been made to the Public Service Board opposing the project?

 Experienced news judgement should lead your team to conclude — or at least to suspect — that the news story does not lie in Mr. Gilbert’s lap.  If you follow the money, the story is without a doubt with Mr. Gilbert.  The undisclosed presumably tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) they have spent on marketing and advertising is no match for a grassroots movement.  And, yet, interestingly, we are growing and they are playing dirtier, which is always a sign of getting nervous.  Mr. Gilbert actually lied on the program Monday, claiming that he was getting a lot of cooperation from landowners in Cornwall.  He was savvy enough to wait to say that until after Mr. Hiland had gotten off the show, gambling that Ms. Lindholm would not challenge him.  She did not.  He denied that Vermont actually banned fracking, causing Paul Burns of VPIRG to send out an appalled member-wide email just hours after the show.  Mr. Gilbert proclaimed that some states produce fracked gas without environmental consequences.  Ms. Lindholm did not stop to question that absurd statement either.  Mistruths are a function of playing dirty.  VGS probably does not engage in business this way under normal circumstances, but they are feeling the pressure of the opposition and are resorting to this tactic.

 If you follow the people rather than the money — people along the pipeline route and from many other places in the state — the real story is with them.  Volunteers have managed to educate themselves, and the opposition has grown from a handful of people a year ago to thousands strong.  The opposition is growing without money, without legal representation, without prior experience with the process — disadvantages that by all rights should have put the opposition out of business.  A journalist with a nose for the news would determine that here lies the dynamic plot, here lies the irrepressible story.

 We challenge you to balance your reporting and give the opposition two shows, just like you gave two shows to Mr. Gilbert — in the studio and for the full 40 min segment.  We can assist you with guests who can speak to the environmental and economic concerns of the pipeline. This would go a long way toward rectifying the imbalance that Vermont Edition has incorporated in its editorial choices until this point.

 We as Vermonters have a right to protect our land, our health, and our economy.  The profits of a Canadian company on one end of the pipeline and a New York State company on the other are of no concern to us.  Profits for them do not help Vermonters.  We love this state, and we’ll work to secure a safe future for all Vermonters, old and young.

 We earnestly hope we will have the chance to work with you.


 (Letter was signed by ~ more than 70 VPR Listeners – thanks to Rebecca Foster)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.vtcpg.org/2013/11/22/sign-on-letter-to-vpr/