Last week, Burlington's CCTV Channel 17 taped another episode of its Media Literacy Series. This one features Burlington Free Press environmental reporter Candy Page, Seven Days Staff Writer Ken Picard and Champlain College professor Craig Chevrier. Chevrier teaches a class called "Social Responsibility in Media." His bio on the CCTV website says he serves as Vice President for the activist group Action Coalition for Media Education, although he's not listed as such on the ACME website. (UPDATE: Chevrier is the veep — and the secretary! — of the Vermont chapter of ACME).
The podcast is an hour long, and some of the questions are less than exciting (i.e. "Where do you get the photos that appear in your paper?") But it's worth listening to, if only to hear Chevrier accuse Page and the Free Press of being "Fruit Loops." The exchange happens about halfway through the podcast.
Says Chevrier, "The news is a product, for most news outlets. They need to sell it, and they need to make a profit on it. I equate the mainstream popular press, or the corporate press, to Fruit Loops, or Cheez Whiz. Nabisco or Kraft sell that stuff, they make money on it. Is it nutritious? No. It possibly does more harm to you than it does good..."
He goes on a for another few sentences, then Page interrupts. She sounds pissed.
"So are you saying that the Free Press is Fruit Loops?" she demands. "That my work is Fruit Loops? That it doesn't have any nutritional content?"
Chevrier responds, "I'm saying on the whole, yes, I think the Free Press is the journalistic equivalent of Fruit Loops."
"I cannot disagree more," says Page. "I think that is insulting, it's inaccurate, and it's an attack on the work that I've spent the last 30 years doing."
Ok, I'm a frequent critic of the Free Press, but I gotta say, Candy Page is no Fruit Loop. In my mind, she epitomizes what's right about the Free Press, not what's wrong with it.