Vermont’s online political arena moved a notch to the left Tuesday as the state’s most prominent conservative blog, Vermont Tiger, announced it's ceasing regular publication.
Dorset writer and editor Geoffrey Norman (pictured right; photo by Lee Krohn), who launched the blog in January 2007, said that competing professional and family obligations are forcing him to scale back from posting new content on a daily basis.
“I made a point when I started this thing: there was going to be something fresh up every day and there was — including the day my mother died,” he says.
Over the years, the blog has featured a host of voices promoting free market principles, including University of Vermont economist Art Woolf, Ethan Allen Institute president John McClaughry and St. Albans Messenger publisher Emerson Lynn.
Though Norman moved to Vermont nearly 35 years ago, the Alabama native told Seven Days in 2010 that he didn’t start paying attention to Vermont politics until his property taxes tripled in 2006.
Norman says that after years training his fire on many of the same issues — Vermont Yankee, Act 160, Act 250 — he’s struggled recently to find fresh things to write.
“I just wonder if I have anything original to say about them,” he says.
Woolf, one of the site’s more prolific contributors, feels the same.
“I thought I was repeating myself from things I’d written months or even years ago,” he says. “It’s just a little case of burnout after five years of doing this. The mood wasn’t striking me as often as it has in the past.”
The site will remain online and both men say they’ll write every now and again — “when the mood strikes me,” as Woolf says. Norman characterized it as “a kind of modified sabbatical.”
Vermont Tiger’s semi-retirement is the latest shift in the state’s ever-evolving online news and commentary arena. The Tiger was one of five sites featured in a January 2010 profile of up-and-coming online outlets written by Seven Days’ Cathy Resmer. Now three of them are gone: Vermont Daily News’ Alden Pellett moved on to become a producer at WCAX-TV. Vermont News Guy’s Jim Margolis folded up shop in November 2010 and became a columnist at VTDigger, another of the sites profiled.
VTDigger, which was founded by former Barre-Montpelier Times Argus editor Anne Galloway, has thrived in the years since, adding staff and freelancers and closely covering Statehouse doings. A fifth site profiled in the piece, the liberal blog Green Mountain Daily, remains active — despite recent personnel changes: publisher John Odum stepped back from the site after being elected Montpelier City Clerk and front-pager Julie Waters passed away.
Eddie Garcia, a Green Mountain Daily cofounder who regularly posts on the site, says that he, for one, isn’t sad to see Vermont Tiger go.
“So what? No one reads it anyway. They don’t really have any effect on the political sphere here,” he says. “Conservatives historically don’t do as well with social media as liberals do — for the same reason they do so well with AM radio and Fox News: because these are one-way shout channels. Conservative messaging comes from the top.”
Norman, for one, says he disappointed by the dearth of conservative voices in Vermont — online, in print and in office — but he’s hopeful others will step up to fill the void.
“I grew up in a one-party state. I’m from Alabama. There was a time when if you could find a Republican in Alabama, you could shoot him and claim a bounty,” he says. “I think it’s unfortunate and not healthy for the state of Vermont that we’re moving toward one-party government. That is hugely enabled by the media of the state.”
So has Norman enjoyed his time in the blogosphere?
“Enormously. I’ve been in media since 1969 and this is one of the most fun things I’ve done. Vermont is a fascinating place, and I’m not through writing about Vermont.”