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Backstory: Most Reluctant Sources

By

Marlboro College campus - DEREK BROWER ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Derek Brower ©️ Seven Days
  • Marlboro College campus

This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2021.


There are two sides to every story, as the saying goes. But time after time in 2021, the subjects of my reporting found ways to avoid telling me theirs.

At first, this was frustrating: I want to include all perspectives in my reporting, and an interview is often the only way to fully represent an individual's view of the facts. But, after a while, the lengths to which some people went to avoid answering questions became downright amusing.

In May, I emailed a Canadian businessman, Adrian Stein, who at the time was laying claim to the former Marlboro College campus for a mysterious project involving a not-yet-existent cryptocurrency. First, Stein asked me to provide a link to my past work and inquired as to how I located his email address. Next, he requested a list of questions in writing. I made my case for a phone interview, and he agreed. But after I asked a couple of uncomfortable questions about his previous businesses, Stein said he didn't have any more time to talk.

Next, there was the principal of Rice Memorial High School, Lisa Lorenz. She declined repeated interview requests over the summer to respond to allegations that the school mishandled reports of sexual misconduct by students. Instead, the school sent a statement that included assertions that were contradicted by other documents I had obtained. Once I explained this conundrum, Lorenz sent a series of emails, attempting to clarify her earlier statement. Finally, I sent a list of specific questions, to which she did not respond.

At least Stein and Lorenz acknowledged me. A group of investors seeking to purchase five Vermont nursing homes ignored my entreaties entirely in July, leaving me to wonder whether I had their correct phone numbers. To be sure that I got their attention, I sent a detailed list of questions to their Vermont attorney, Shireen Hart. The next day, I later learned, they removed an investor I'd been raising questions about from their formal application to the state. I think they got my messages.

The clumsiest avoider, though, was landlord Rick Bove. He initially agreed to an extensive interview about problems at his rental properties and even spoke to me and Liam Elder-Connors of Vermont Public Radio twice to schedule it. But when the time came, he didn't pick up the phone. Bove later texted us to say he would not speak to us for the story. He didn't explain why he'd changed his mind. 

His brother, Mark, did take our call but also declined to be interviewed.

After the story ran in November, Mark submitted a letter to the editor to Seven Days, which read, in part, "I urge everyone to understand the broader context. There are always two sides to every story and to address every single one would only lead to a back-and-forth where nothing productive would happen."

That answered one of my questions, I guess.