Media Note: VTDigger Announces Staff Departures | Off Message

Media Note: VTDigger Announces Staff Departures

by founder and editor Anne Galloway - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • founder and editor Anne Galloway
Online news site announced the departures of two employees Tuesday — longtime political columnist Jon Margolis and managing editor Colin Meyn.

Veteran journalist Margolis penned his final column Tuesday. He explained that he recently turned 80, and it struck him as “unseemly” for someone his age to be a political analyst in today’s climate.

“Such work is better suited for younger people who are more energetic and less jaded, people who have more to learn because they know less,” Margolis wrote.

In an interview with Seven Days, Margolis, a former political reporter for the Chicago Tribune, said his decade-long stint as a columnist for VTDigger was one of the most enjoyable of his career. But the switch to remote legislating made tracking down news tips tougher, while insightful pieces by VTDigger’s young Statehouse reporters made his political analysis redundant, he said.

“I’m going to miss the collegiality, I’m going to miss the challenge, and I’m going to miss being able to vent my spleen once a week,” Margolis said.

The reasons behind Meyn’s departure were less clear.

In an email to staff, Anne Galloway, the site’s founder and top editor, announced “with great sadness” that Meyn had resigned. He had directed the site's award-winning coverage of COVID-19, the 2020 election, racial harassment, prison misconduct and police shootings, she wrote.

“I know you will miss him as much as I will,” Galloway wrote. “I appreciate his moral compass, commitment to the public's right to know and compassionate support of members of the team. He is also a dogged reporter and editor I am proud to know.”

Reached Tuesday, Meyn declined to comment. On Wednesday, he released a statement.

"There were a number of factors in my decision to move on from VTDigger, and my family's decision to move to the Washington D.C. area at the end of the year,” Meyn wrote. “I appreciate Anne's gracious handling of my resignation and I wish her and VTDigger continued success."

Meyn is a native of Maine and studied journalism at Northwestern University. He was hired in 2018 and promoted to managing editor in 2019. His last day is November 27.

“The reporters were all really stunned and saddened by the news,” education reporter Lola Duffort wrote in an email. “Colin is smart, fair, kind, and maybe the hardest working among us. He's also the kind of manager you can always be honest with, and the kind of editor who will always have your back."

Several VTDigger staff members who spoke to Seven Days on condition they not be identified said there was tension between Meyn and Galloway over newsroom management, including story selection, the number of stories produced and the editing process.

After a December survey laid bare significant staff dissatisfaction, changes were implemented. Galloway said a “pod” system was established with reporters assigned to a specific editor, with Meyn managing those editors and Galloway focusing on managing Meyn.

While she acknowledged a “natural tension” at VTDigger over the pressures to produce both breaking stories and long-form journalism, she said it was similar to that in any newsroom and any impression staffers had of conflicts were inaccurate.

“I’ve always managed the newsroom in conjunction with the managing editor,” Galloway said. “Colin and I got along very well.”

Meyn has international journalism experience, having worked in Cambodia, and has an interest in being in a more urban area, Galloway said.

“My understanding is that he wants to play on a bigger stage,” she said.

His departure “leaves a big hole” and Digger will conduct a nationwide search for his replacement, she said.