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ANR should not censor the news


Published March 7, 2008 at 1:39 p.m.

That's the headline of Seven Days publisher Paula Routly's Letter to the Editor in today's Barre/Montpelier Times Argus.

The letter refers to a kerfuffle involving Mike Ives' cover story of a couple weeks ago, about Vermont's groundwater.

While researching the story, Mike naturally attempted to talk with ahydrologist at ANR. But ANR Communications Director Sabina Haskell shuthim down. Haskell wouldn't allow anyone at ANR to talk with Mike — ironic given her past as a journalist and an advocate of open government.

Vermont Press Bureau reporter Dan Barlow covered ANR's conduct in a story last Thursday, the day after our paper hit the streets. Then the Times Argus mentioned the case in a March 2 editorial, and Jim Romenesko linked to the story from his national media blog.

In other words, a government agency refusing to give vital information to Vermont's largest weekly newspaper is a big deal.

Paula writes:

Thanks to Daniel Barlow and the Rutland Herald/Times-Argus for coveringthe recent dust-up between Seven Days newspaper and the Vermont Agencyof Natural Resources. The taxpayers of Vermont should know that their"public servants" have been given the green light to shut outjournalists they deem to be "biased" — read: critical of ANR and itsmethods. Think about it: Should government agencies be free to pick andchoose which news outlets are acceptable and which aren't? Should theybe allowed to censor a weekly that last year won six awards from theVermont Press Association, including first place for "GeneralExcellence" among the state's non-daily newspapers?

Um, no.

I guess all the attention paid off — Mike Ives contacted Haskell to schedule some interviews for a follow-up story this week, and she put him right through to someone.