Morning Read: State Pays D.C. Firm for Vermont Media Intel | Off Message

Morning Read: State Pays D.C. Firm for Vermont Media Intel

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Vermont Public Radio's Bob Kinzel is totally a Negative Nancy.

At least, that's the conclusion a Washington, D.C. consulting firm drew in April after the state of Vermont paid the company $18,000 for intel on reporters covering the roll-out of the state's new health care exchange.

The Vermont Press Bureau's Peter Hirschfeld had the details in a shocking Sunday story in the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus outlining the lengths to which Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration has gone to manipulate press coverage of the exchange, called Vermont Health Connect.

A public records request filed by Hirschfeld netted the following assessment of Kinzel's reportage:

“Vermont Public Radio’s Bob Kinzel has written more cutting pieces addressing penalties expected to negatively affect small businesses,” consultants at GMMB wrote in an April “analysis” of media coverage of the exchange.

Of one story in particular, they wrote, Kinzel had demonstrated a “generally negative tone” by “bring(ing) to light that the benefit package offered through the exchange is not as comprehensive as the package offered by Catamount, causing some Vermonters to face lower premiums and higher out of pocket expenses.”

GMMB's "earned media landscape report" is just one of many media manipulation tools the Department of Vermont Health Access got from its $1.8 million contract with the firm, Hirschfeld reported. GMMB, which produced television ads for both of Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, also provided the state with media training for top officials, a 14-page "earned media strategy" report and a "story bank" to use when pitching reporters.

Hirschfeld's story doesn't appear to be posted online at present (we'll update with a link if we find it) is available, behind the TImes Argus paywall, here. Hirschfeld also uploaded his source documents, which we look forward to perusing, here on the Vermont Press Bureau's blog.

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