This blog post is my opinion regarding the Valley News columns by Jim Kenyon located here and here.
The Valley News is, at best, sporadic in its coverage of Norwich. But, it sure knows how to protect its turf. Apparently feeling threatened by dailyUV, the newspaper's columnist Jim Kenyon did a hack job on the Town of Norwich, dailyUV and its related company Story Kitchen. Why? Because Norwich contracted with two respected journalists to ghost write stories for the Town to be published on the dailyUV.
In terms of coverage, the Valley News barely gives Norwich the time of day. Since November 9th, the newspaper has written 12 stories that it tagged 'Norwich, VT'. See below. Heck, Demo writes that many stories in a week on his About Norwich blog on the dailyUV
Source: Valley News 12.22.2018
Of those 12 stories in the Valley News, a mere five focus on news related to Norwich, and in two of those five, the information was available on the listserv first.
Mr. Kenyon says "Credible news organizations have standards." I hope one of those standards is to provide decent news coverage of the municipal areas it claims to serve. By that standard, the Valley News has utterly failed Norwich. However, the newspaper sure pays attention when anyone attempts to fill the void.
The latest column used buzzwords: "easy marks", "spinmeisters", "puff pieces", and "pay to play". To fill space and to skew the discussion, it took a Trump-like shot at Watt Alexander, the founder of the dailyUV. The prior column accused the Town of trying to deflect attention from the retirement of the DPW Director and drunk driving arrest of the Town Manager. Geez. Let's incite rather than think.
What is missing from both Valley News columns was any examination whatsoever of the actual content produced. Isn't that what matters? Not one peep from Mr. Kenyon about whether the stories were helpful or informative Mr. Kenyon concludes that absolutely no taxpayer money should be spent "to tell people about what good things you’re doing."
If the Town of Norwich had a Facebook page, is that bad? A town worker, on taxpayer time, would need to keep it up to date and decide what 'good news' to post. How about a town newsletter sent by first class mail to every resident? Is that a waste of money too? The newsletter does not write or edit itself. And, I doubt it is full of bad news.
Digital media present new opportunities (and challenges) to towns. Is it such a stretch for a municipality to contract out that work to people with communication expertise, particularly when it adds value and frees the Town Manager to do other things? Let us debate the value of the content or the budget cost. Let us tune-up the content. But to suggest no taxpayer money should be spent on an outside contractor to communicate to residents on a digital platform strikes me as a little absurd.
I suspect what upset the Mr. Kenyon and the Valley News was the medium - - the dailyUV. The newspaper views the dailyUV as a direct competitor. Did you know the Valley News won't let the dailyUV advertise in the newspaper? I get that the digital age is not kind to print newspapers. Newspapers of New England, Inc. (NNE) owns nine newspapers including the Valley News and Concord Monitor, according to Wikipedia
. It has skin in the game. In a different context, Mr. Kenyon might characterize NNE as big media trying to crush a local start up.
Am I way off base on this post? What say you? Please comment below.
Disclosure: I own a minuscule amount of stock in Subtext Media.