by Peter Freyne
Look, when a major-party congressional candidate (in a state that only has one congressional seat) gets popped for campaign-website plagiarism the way Republican Marvelous Martha Rainville did earlier this month - that’s news! Especially when the candidate hasn’t run for political office before and in many, many ways is an unknown commodity.
I mean, did the GOP candidate really approve - as she says she did - a policy statement that was literally ripped right from the jaws of Hillary Rodham Clinton?
Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.” And unfortunately, there were more cases of stolen words on her campaign website.
And this Vermont political embarrassment came with an unusual one-two kind-of-punch.
The story broke, as you recall, on Sunday evening, October 1. And it broke first, not on radio or TV, but in this brave, new and lightning-fast world one enters through one’s fingertips - El Blogosphere!
A Vermont blogger - Julie Waters at "Reason and Brimstone" - landed the first punch. Well done, Citizen Waters. Nice birdie pics, too, on Fridays!
The mainstream Vermont press followed quickly on Monday. Marvelous Martha blamed it on a campaign staffer and promptly fired the gentleman (despite his U.S. Supreme Court lineage.)
The Rainville Plagiarism story went out on the A.P. wire, and VPR, WDEV and WPTZ-TV produced their own reports for their Monday evening newscasts (also was a front-pager in Vermont’s top daily newspapers the following morning).
The second punch came when yours truly tuned into WCAX-TV News at 6 p.m. Monday evening to watch news readers Marselis Parsons and Kristin Kelly tell Vermont all about it. Wanted to see how “Vermont’s Own” would play it. In fact, we tuned in early to catch the political ads.
As everyone in Ch. 3 Land that Monday evening knows, “Vermont’s Own” definitely separated itself from the rest of the news pack on this one! WCAX did not mention one single word about Rainville’s sloppy, shallow and embarrassing plagiarism mess at 6 p.m. Nor did Ch. 3 News mention a single word during their 11 o’clock news.
O.K. I could see somebody over there argue it shouldn’t be the top story, but...no story whatsoever? Not a peep? Hello, Kirk to Enterprise!
Needless to say, we took note of that omission right here in “Freyne Land.”
Then a week ago, I contacted Ch. 3 General Manager Peter Martin, and Ch. 3 News Director Parsons by email on a different matter - i.e. to ascertain why “Vermont’s Own” had decided not to sponsor/produce a TV debate in this year’s Vermont gubernatorial race between Jim the Incumbent Republican and Scudder the Democrat Challenger.
As you may have read in "Inside Track," and in the Saturday item below this one, Peter Martin responded professionally. Unfortunately, my inquiry inspired Marsillyiss to get something off his chest. He sent the following letter to Seven Days coeditor Pamela Polston, and also sent a copy to me personally.
My first inclination was to just have a wee laugh and toss it. But then, Marselis Parsons is an important and powerful figure on the Vermont News scene. Shelburne Bay, pictured above on a windy dark Sunday, is the Ch. 3 News Director's front yard. As we see, Marsillyiss makes the call on what we get to see and what we don't. Our readers/viewers might find it insightful:
October 10, 2006
Ms. Pamela Polston
Dear Ms. Polston:
Peter Freyne fairly criticized us for not running the Martha Rainville aide plagiarism story last Monday October second. It was a mistake not to run that story on that day and the responsibility is mine.
However, Freyne said in his blog that Anson Tebbetts never filed the story Monday. That is a lie. Freyne either assumed, or made it up.
I rarely talk to him as I have lost my regard for his professionalism. I have not written to you before to complain about him, but the number of errors or distortions has come to the point I felt it necessary. This statement is a lie and impugns one of our reporters.
Your readers should know the truth. Anson DID write the story and filed it late in the day Monday. I did not notice it in the lineup till after the 6pm program. It was my fault it was not included, not Anson's.
Peter Freyne has let his obvious animus toward channel three news affect his judgment. An apology to Anson would probably be too much to ask for, but I would certainly appreciate a correction.
I have not written on numerous other occasions when he has made a number of errors involving us, and I don't intend to begin now. But I think the editors of Seven Days ought to monitor his work more often.
Busy guy. Thanks for taking the time, Marselis.
A “lie,” eh? You sure about your “accuracy” on that baseless charge?
I ask because my dictionary defines a “lie” as “an intentionally false statement.”
You claim in your letter that I “lied” by reporting, er, blogging on Tuesday morning that your chief political reporter Anson Tebbetts never filed a Rainville Plagiarism story on Monday, the day the story broke. The day when the rest of the pack all carried it:
“Your readers should know the truth. Anson DID write the story and filed it late in the day Monday. I did not notice it in the lineup till after the 6pm program.”
Let’s assume for a moment, folks, that’s accurate. But if it is accurate, why wasn't the Tebbetts/Rainville/Plagiarism story - the top story that fell completely through the hour-long 6 o’clock News cracks - not broadcast on the 11 o’clock news that Monday night?
Here's what I blogged that Tuesday morning:
"Marvelous Martha's campaign plagiarism story was completely and totally ignored by Vermont Chamber of Commerce TV News, a.k.a. WCAX-TV - Channel 3. I'm not making this up. Just double checked the Ch. 3 Monday news scripts. The top Vermont political story of the day, a story showing GOP Candidate Rainville in a very bad ethical light, got absolutely no coverage Monday evening by Vermont's top TV news operation, the one I've called WGOP-TV for years!"
One can’t help but wonder how many regular viewers think it likely that Marselis, Anson and Ch. 3 News would have handled it the same way if the guilty plagiarist in the spotlight had been a Democrat, an Independent or Progressive, instead of a "Jim Douglas Republican?"
And, Marsillyiss, like your other regular viewers, the only way I know what Ch. 3 is covering on any given night is to tune in. Please tell us how anyone outside of Ch. 3 could possibly have known that Mr. Tebbetts had, as you claim, filed a little plagiarism story “late in the day,” but that you, the anchorman/news director, completely overlooked it!
Perhaps, from here on out, you’ll post your daily assignment sheet on your website for all of us to read, eh?
I won’t hold my breath.
But I will use this opportunity to appeal to your sense of public service. Information-wise, a whole lot of Vermont depends on Ch. 3 News. A gubernatorial debate between these two talented candidates - Jim Douglas (R) and Scudder Parker (D) - is something "Vermont's Own" Ch. 3 viewers deserve, don't they? I mean, how many more commercials do you expect us to watch?
P.S. To make your claim credible, Marselis, that I have on “numerous occasions” made “errors” and “distortions” in my coverage of WCAX-TV News, you have to at least give a few examples. It’s called "proof."
However, if you put this absurdity together with the glaring and factually-false hatchet-job you pulled on Judge Edward Cashman last January, it's fair to say "credibility" is not your strong suit in 2006, is it?
By the way, I like Ch. 3 News and have been a faithful viewer for decades. Some very nice folks work there, too. Get your facts straight, will ya? You're an embarassment to them.