AP Fires Well-Known Vermont Editor

Chris Graff, a well-known Vermont AP bureau chief, has suddenly lost his job.  

Graff is also the father of Garrett Graff, who served as deputy national press secretary on Howard Dean's presidential campaign and, beginning in 1997, was then-Governor Dean's first webmaster, according to his bio at Media Bistro's FishBowlDC.

More about Graff pere on the jump.

Here is the story Graff told to Editor & Publisher:

The Web site of the weekly Vermont Guardian reported earlier today that Graff was "dismissed without warning" this morning, under mysterious circumstances. Graff would not comment beyond confirming that he no longer works for AP.

Jack Stokes, AP spokesman in New York, told E&P: "I can confirm that Chris Graff is no longer with the company but we routinely do not talk about personnel issues."

The news came as a shock in Vermont. Graff has covered Vermont and its politics for more than 20 years and is the regular host of Vermont Public Television's Vermont This Week.

He told the Rutland Herald for its Tuesday edition: "I'm trying to figure it out myself."

According to the Herald,

Graff "has briefly tangled with national political and journalistic leaders, most recently during the controversy surrounding Chittenden Superior Court Judge Edward Cashman and his sentencing of a child sexual offender. Graff wrote a story based on the actual sentencing transcript that fueled the ire of Fox News talk show host Bill O'Reilly for several days."

Larry Laughlin, the AP's northern New England bureau chief and Graff's boss, delivered the news personally to Graff during a morning meeting.

Graff would remain the host and managing editor of Vermont This Week.  Gov. Jim Douglas was described as "bewildered" by the news and a top aide to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said: "Chris Graff is the gold standard in Vermont journalism."

Seven Days, a Vermont alternative webweekly, has a more detailed account of events.  Their investigation of Graff's firing includes this:

First, since former USA Today president and publisher Tom Curley took over the reins at AP in 2003, things have taken a turn for the worse. Graff isn't the first veteran AP bureau chief to get axed recently. Curley's new Gannett-style policies and guidelines are being imposed with an iron fist by his new team of managers. There are complaints the news is being dumbed down by corporate, and the AP gold standard is being turned into cow flop.

Second, "Inside Track" has learned that Mr. Graff's firing is directly linked to a certain news item he moved out to client newspapers on the Associated Press wire two weeks ago.

According to sources in the Vermont media, the item was a column written by Vermont Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. The subject was the growing threat to our democracy by infringements imposed by the Bush administration on America's hallowed Freedom of Information Act. It was submitted for possible publication by the "Sunshine in Government Initiative" of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

The NYTimes story is here.

Apparently, open government is a touchy subject at the AP.

Tags: AP, Associated Press, Vermont (all tags)

Comments

4 Comments

Thanks!

I really hope we can help get this story out nationally...

In the NYT article, the AP seems to be trying to spin this as trimming the news staff...

Um, OK...

by Vermonter 2006-03-22 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: AP Fires Well-Known Vermont Editor

Talk about freedom of the press.

by jasmine 2006-03-22 02:41PM | 0 recs
AP - and also Knight Ridder...

I suspect that the Leahy and Cashman things are just pretexts for replacing a senior guy who knows his turf and is prepared to talk back to management with a junior, cheaper, trained seal.

If AP members were yearning for informed and reliable news from VT, they would not doubt have made their feelings felt.

Grumble at it as one will, for propagating most stories across the nation, the AP is all there is.

It was a key tool of Joe McCarthy, of course. And Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check is duly scathing about its activities in the first couple of decades of the 20th century.

And lefties went wild over Nedra Pickler in 04.

But - it still covers the 50 states like nothing else. Only, not so thoroughly as in the recent past.

Definitely one to keep an eye on.

(The KR takeover is in the same category - in particular, the fate of its Washington Bureau, that has got so many plaudits in the last few years, but will no doubt be a tempting target for rationalization!)

by skeptic06 2006-03-22 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: AP - and also Knight Ridder...

There's a long AJR piece on the KR Washington Bureau which looks worth a read.

by skeptic06 2006-03-22 03:04PM | 0 recs

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