It's time local reporting trumped Trump

After reading Vermont newspapers, I have concluded that there are no news stories to report other than what President Trump, his family, his administration, and his Mar-a-Lago estate have been up to.

Choose any daily and there are a half dozen or more news stories, letters to the editor, opinions of columnists, editorials even full page ads — each has a point of view, not unexpectedly, unfavorably toward anything dealing with Trump.

A case in point would be the February 23rd edition of the Rutland Herald. The paper's two page editorial and opinion section had no less than seven pieces debunking President Trump, in one way or another: "Vermont Solidarity," the editorial; "Democrats Reject Trump Order," a letter to the editor; " The Five Trumps," Thomas Friedman's column; "The Trump Tax," Jules Rabin's column; "Trump's CEO Mentality," John Nassivera's column; "Milo, The Mini-Donald," Frank Bruni's column, and "Consorting With the Enemy," Lisa Chalidze's column.

There must be other newsworthy items within Rutland and Bennington, where the paper is distributed. Recently, the Bennington Banner used six columns to report that Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort failed a health department inspection due to rusty shelving and chefs working without hairnets — really?

The Trump Administration has had a rocky first 100 days. In part, due to being overconfident, underestimating what it takes to build consensus with Congress and our country's allies, and a lack of depth in understanding the complexities of having to deal with Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Middle East dictators. Much of this deserves to be reported — but on a daily basis?

Shouldn't we deal with the issues that we might be able to change? Accepting the press to monopolize its focus on Washington, and not what saps us at home, is a disservice and, of course, a fruitless diversion.

For example, when will we seriously address the mental health crisis in Vermont? It has now become a "perfect storm" — we're faced with an insufficient number of acute care beds, additional patients due to the opiate crisis, hundreds of unfilled mental health positions, and a lack of funding. And there are more issues.

Three years from now, when the 2020 Census reporting is complete for Vermont, it will be statistically confirmed that tens of thousands of young people have left the state — due to the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing — a rare news item.

An economic and social anomaly exists in Vermont that few in the press wish to address. We have a historically low unemployment rate of 3 percent, and yet we have close to 30 percent of the state's population receiving subsistence for food, fuel, housing, and health care. With so many employers looking to hire, is it possible that the state has a core population of working age adults that have lost the desire to seek employment?

There are dozens of other issues that could be listed. One such issue, which was recently covered by WCAX-TV, was the spike in children taken from their homes by the Vermont Department of Children and Families. In 2016, the number under DCF control was 1,392, up by 30 percent from the previous year. Even more tragic, included in the total are 539 children under five years old, which is almost double the total from 2015.

It is time for the Vermont print media to refocus its reporting. When President Trump comes out with a Twitter statement, we don't need a week's worth of commentary about it.

But when the police arrest two drug dealers with the equivalent of 37,000 bags of heroin or mental health patients having to spend weeks in a hospital's ER — these issues deserve a week's worth of comments.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington.


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