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Local Bound

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 18, 2012.

Rutland County GOP Chairman Rob Towle’s offensive Facebook post has become a national news story and sadly has brought the ugly, racially charged rhetoric currently at play in parts of the Republican Party home to Vermont.

While the post was eventually removed after commenters from all sides decried it as racist and offensive, Towle’s half-hearted non-apology only drew more criticism. By Tuesday, Towle found some better words and apologized in earnest for his “bad judgment,” calling the post “stupid and insensitive.”

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 5, 2012.

In their haste to report on last week’s Supreme Court ruling of the Affordable Care Act, CNN and Fox News Channel got one key part of the story wrong: all of it. This most recent failure underscores exactly what is wrong with the 24-hour cable news channels: Simply saying something — anything — is now enough. On Thursday, CNN and Fox performed the journalistic equivalent of a commenter writing “FIRST!” on an Internet message board.

This ratings-driven motivation comes at the expense of both organizations’ credibility and devalues the importance of factual journalism. Viewers would have been better served if the reporter had simply read the document or just held it up to the camera and slowly flipped the pages.

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Rutland City Police investigate a shooting on Cleveland Avenue shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. (Vyto Starinskas/Rutland Herald photo)

[UPDATED (5/1/12): The shooting on Friday, 4/27/12, was accidental and not a drive-by]

(Published in the May 2, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald) Before we respond to last week’s shooting near Cleveland Avenue with hopeless despair over Rutland’s further decline into darkness, let’s count to five and put things into perspective.

Early reports labeled the incident as a drive-by shooting. Further investigation revealed that it was, in fact, accidental. While this development changes how the shooting is classified, the public’s initial response was no less real.

As word of the shooting went viral on social media Friday afternoon, the tone was dire. Across the Rutland, people clucked their tongues and shook their heads lamenting the loss of town they once knew.

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Photo by Cassandra Hotaling Hahn / Rutland Herald

Originally published in the April 19, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald.

Last week, Rutland was witness to something unique: A Chamber of Commerce mixer that people were actually talking about. Wales Street became a spectacle as scores of people crowded inside the large tent to mix, mingle and enjoy the complimentary food and drinks.

Donald Billings, chef-owner of Roots the Restaurant — which co-hosted the mixer with Earth Waste Systems — threw down with a menu dominated by locally sourced food. The centerpiece, a pig roast, helped build anticipation as it cooked slowly in Roots’ driveway — its smoky scents wafting through all of downtown a full day ahead of the event.

The buzz around the mixer was unprecedented for these typically humdrum Chamber gatherings. Clearly, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce knew it had something special, as it was especially effusive in its promotion of the mixer via email, print ads and social media.

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald and Rutland County Express on Dec. 29, 2011.

Two thousand eleven is almost behind us, and it’s a year I think almost all of us are happy to put in the rearview. But before we ring in 2012, let’s take a moment to look back. Borrowing from Twitter, I’ve compiled my list of the biggest stories trending in #RutVT in 2011.

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Vyto Starinskas / Rutland Herald photo

(Originally published in the Rutland Herald on Nov. 30, 2011.) By now this scene is commonplace. Throngs of people convened on a predetermined location. Their motivations for being there were myriad, but all agreed they would not leave until they got what they wanted. There was shouting, pushing, shoving. In some extreme cases, people were even injured.

This wasn’t Zuccotti Park or Tahrir Square. It was retail stores across America last week rapt with Black Friday mania. As I combed my Twitter and Facebook feeds last Friday morning I was struck by the vacillation between disgust and glee in my friends’ status updates — a microcosm of American attitudes toward this pseudo-holiday.

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald and Rutland County Express on 9/15/11.

Over the years, I’ve often had doubts about my generation. Amid the unceasing intellectual debasement of our culture, which increasingly — almost gleefully — rejects substance for style, I feared that our potential would be squandered, lost in a malaise of self-absorbed apathy.

With the advent of social and technological phenomena like Facebook, Twitter, and the iPhone, I worried that we would only slip further into this solipsistic vacuum, egocasting ourselves into irrelevance as we became ever more acutely able to filter the information to which we are exposed.

Each generation has a defining moment — a time when a single event changes everything and requires us to act, to unite and change the world, one hopes, for the better. Our collective response will, for better or worse, leave an indelible mark on the wall of history. Our grandparents had Pearl Harbor. Our parents had JFK’s assassination.

Ten years ago on Sept. 11, my generation had its moment. As I sat outside in near silence with some friends on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that night, frightened and numb, I felt the time had come.

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