Commentary, Opinion

Vermont Media and conservatives – How about a new paradigm? 

By Matt Krauss

With the exit of President Donald Trump isn’t this a perfect time for Vermont media to build a working, mutually beneficial relationship with Vermont conservatives? Covid-19 has permanently transformed our institutions and practices. Aren’t Vermont media’s websites, publications, and programs now routinely and unashamedly asking for survival money?

We’re told it’s temporary, but what if it isn’t? What if 2020 becomes the good old days? Free money is like returning repeatedly to a buffet. Tough to say, “I’ve had enough.” Don’t you feel those “please donate” appeals are now a permanent fixture? No one, especially conservatives, wants to see a local business fail. Their employees are neighbors. They rent local space and they are civic minded.

However, is asking for a handout a viable business model in 2021?

There are many reasons for the perilous state of Vermont media. Most of them are beyond a local solution. To be effective I was taught to focus on items you have some control over. During these challenging times what industry ignores any part of their potential market, in this case Vermont conservatives?

Citizens legitimately bemoan the loss of local media. Sympathetic conservatives respond, “Why should I read, listen, watch, and donate when virtually none of it speaks to me?”

The media’s choice shouldn’t be an autopsy or an apology tour. It’s between permanent charity status or cultivating new clientele. Aren’t many of us fearful when approaching new, unknown people?

Great salesmen turn that fear into action. We know it may be a challenge to cater to conservative readers and listeners. We’ll root for your success.

Doubt the premise of benign neglect? Answer these simple questions. Who are the paid conservative editorial writers in Vermont media? What programs at public radio/tv speak deeply, intensely to conservatives? Where are Vermont media’s weekly paid conservative columnists? Conservatives say that you are more likely to find two unicorns mating in your backyard than a paid conservative news/editorial employee at any large Vermont media company.

Conservatives were thrilled when a newspaper created a column, “Stuck in Vermont.” They mistakenly believed the column was about their plight in Vermont. Why not have a conservative co-host it? Have you heard the program, Brave Little Conservative? Oops, sorry, “Brave Little State”? This program title implies Vermont nobility over less brave states. Conservatives cringe knowing those states are where their children, grandchildren, and friends are now living, working, and creating memories without them.

They don’t expect you to become Fox News. They are a media empire making oodles of money. How? They welcomed those who were ignored. Pride aside, do it for the Benjamin’s.

I’d appreciate Vermont conservatives being open to any new media offers. Set aside past grievances and extend a friendly handshake. Work with your former adversaries and problem solve together. I’d like local Vermont media to be more inclusive, to thrive, and be profitable. Here are a couple of thoughts:

Conduct a virtual listening tour. Please visit working Vermonters at the local auto repair shop, nurses’ lunch hangout, construction company, day care center, landscape business, and barber/beauticia.Compare what you heard to your work product. Make appropriate adjustments.

Couldn’t the Vermont Press Association focus less on their 16 annual awards and more on creating the first annual conservative/Vermont media virtual conference? Focus on a meet and greet, establishing trust, new product ideas.

Create, brand, and nurture a small conservative program/show/space in your media offering. . Be welcoming to their voices. What have you got to lose?

Someday Covid-19 will be gone. I want Vermont media to survive to report it.

Matt Krauss, Stowe, is a happily retired state employee and former Vt legislator.

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