Sue Allen: column was “deeply troubling and misleading”

Sue Allen, special assistant to the Governor. VTD/Josh Larkin

Sue Allen, special assistant to the Governor. VTD/Josh Larkin

Editor’s note: This letter refers to Anne Galloway’s column about Gov. Peter Shumlin’s press conferences, “Off the Fifth floor: Inside baseball, Shumlin style.”

By Susan Allen, Special Assistant to the Governor

A recent column by Anne Galloway asserts that Governor Peter Shumlin is inaccessible to Vermont reporters and does not allow sufficient time for questions during news conferences. She states as fact that reporters are “lucky to get 10 to 15 minutes” to question the governor.

Anne Galloway knows better. What Anne did not inform her readers was that the very day that her column was published, she spent not an hour, not two hours, but thirteen hours of unrestricted time traveling with Governor Shumlin throughout the state. I find it deeply troubling and misleading that in a column criticizing the governor for not being accessible, Anne failed to mention that she was about to spend the entire day with him.

Equally troubling are Anne’s assertions about the time the governor spends answering reporters’ questions. As a former journalist, I was trained to focus not on assumptions, but on facts – and to let the facts tell the story. Anne’s assertion that reporters are “lucky to get 10 to 15 minutes” with the governor is flatly untrue. I know that not only because I field – and in the overwhelming majority of instances, grant – requests from reporters to speak with the governor, but also because I looked at the facts. Here’s what I found:

1. Governor Shumlin has held 47 press conferences and 25 bill signings since taking office, all of which provided opportunities for reporters to ask whatever questions they wished to ask. In addition, the governor routinely responds to phone calls from reporters on whatever subject they wish to discuss.

2. Of the 19 press conferences that we have on video file, the average period of questions and answers from the press was 27 minutes. Ironically, Anne wrote in her article and in subsequent communication with me that Governor Shumlin should aim for 20 to 25 minutes of Q&A time in his press conferences. I am not holding my breath that Anne will write a follow up column praising the governor for exceeding her target.

3. On only three occasions was the press conference stopped by the governor’s staff due to time constraints. In those three examples, the Q&A period was 15, 35, and 33 minutes. The other press conferences ended because there were no further questions from reporters.

Anne is entitled to disagree with the substance of Governor Shumlin’s press conferences, but making up facts is quite another matter. I have enjoyed a good relationship with Anne over the past seven months – in the vast majority of instances when she has requested interviews with Governor Shumlin or members of his administration, those requests have been granted. While I haven’t always agreed with her conclusions, I have respected her work as fair and thorough. This instance is an unfortunate exception.

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edd foerster
5 years 5 months ago

Got any cheese to go with that whine?

Andrew Lory
5 years 5 months ago

After reading Ms Allen’s article regarding press time with the Governor, I would like to hear Anne Galloway’s response. Anne?

5 years 5 months ago
Dear Andrew, Thanks for asking. I stand by my column about the press conferences. I did spend Thursday with the governor. I was grateful for that opportunity. I will be writing about that experience. I view the pressers, however, as a separate matter. It’s typically the only chance I have to get word from the governor on the issues of the day (or week). I have a hard time getting calls back, in part because my calls haven’t been returned, and in part because I don’t have the governor’s cell phone number or email address, so if he does call,… Read more »
Ralph Pace
5 years 5 months ago

I think it would be prudent, Anne, to address the numbers and times cited by Susan. Your problem with a cell phone isn’t the Governor’s problem.

Al Salzman
5 years 5 months ago

A big thank you to Anne Galloway for keeping Shumlin’s feet to the fire about access and transparency. Sue Allen’s complaint brings to mind the great quote from Upton Sinclair: “You cannot make someone understand something when their salary depends on not understanding it!” Also, Shumlin’s appraisal of Obama being the smartest person he’s ever met is pathetic in its obsequiousness. But if that is true, it makes Obama’s betrayal of his supposed principles even more regretable.

5 years 5 months ago
Isn’t this great! Galloway banging on the door. Governor and staff irritated at said banging while they try to govern. Galloway irritated at sound bite politics. Governor irritated at being asked inconvenient questions. Galloway at the top of the journalism game, afflicting the comfortable. Governor at top of his game, getting governing done. Sounds like a strong democracy to me. If both sides keep it up, it’s good for all of us. There has not been a governor this good and this fast for a long time (Douglas lovers will cringe at that but he was just so different). The… Read more »
Jane Stein
5 years 5 months ago
I find this troubling because I generally trust Anne and I generally trust Gov. Shumlin. Susan Allen appears to have the facts to back up her assertions, unless there’s a legitimate argument to be made that the Gov. answers questions longer when there’s a videocamera in the room. If Shumlin’s answers too often lack substance and are unsatisfactory to the reporters, though, that could be creating the impression that his Q&A’s are short. Perhaps Anne could informally survey some of her colleagues and see what their impressions are. Also, PR 101, Susan Allen. When your guy is criticized by someone… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago
An example in support of what Anne is saying: Ask Governor Shumlin about his support for wind energy, and the answer is always the same: “Our people in southeastern Vermont have sacrificed for years and now it is time for others to sacrifice.” That’s it. No substance. Same phrase over and over. And he has no interest in engaging in any discussion about the sacrifices he is making people endure. Brick wall, door slammed in their faces, end of story, don’t want to talk about it. I don’t call that good governing, and I am grateful to Anne for trying… Read more »
Drew Smith
5 years 5 months ago

Fewer dog and pony show soundbites from, and more in depth interviews and question periods with the Governor are in order. We need more reporters like Anne, who are not afraid to ask the difficult questions, even if they may make the Governor uncomfortable. I also appreciate the frustration of hearing the same superficial answers to questions that deserve a more detailed response.

Bruce Post
5 years 5 months ago
I am not going to weigh in on this particular issue, but I would like to bring to the public consciousness something Dick Snelling, my old boss, said during his all-too-brief tenure as Governor in 1991. At one particular news conference, he explained his view on the importance of the news media in a democracy. He asserted that it was his job as Governor to develop and propose policy and to implement the laws. Yet, in order for those policies to be successfully understood and accepted, the Governor had to do a good job explaining his/her proposal. Yet, it was… Read more »
Edd Foerster
5 years 5 months ago
“There has not been a governor this good and this fast for a long time (Douglas lovers will cringe at that but he was just so different).” That’s nonsense. It’s not just Douglas lovers who are cringing. It’s us Dean lovers who are cringing. Dean was a great governor for 11 years. He was competent, scrupulously honest and straightforward, presided over a great economy, and never ever ever suffered from Shumlin’s reputation for dishonesty, slickness, sating whatever his momentary audience wanted to hear, and holding his index finger up to the polls and pandering to the left-wing base of his… Read more »
Steve Wright
5 years 5 months ago

Keep digging Anne. The more they squeal, the closer you’re getting. When you can get a reaction from the gov’s Communications Director and another from a principal in the lobbying firm that practically shares an office with the gov then you’re on to something.

Earl J Moniz
5 years 5 months ago
I wonder “what authority there was to report the news before journalism degrees?” I wonder what credentials Ben Franklin flashed in order to get his publishing/reporting/documenting career underway? The question now becomes, “What authority will exist AFTER journalism degrees?” With the advent of the Internet, cellphone cameras, lightweight camcorders, live Internet video-conferencing, IMovie, MovieMaker, and vlogging, journalism degrees are quickly becoming old school. Everyone has the ability and tools to become a solo journalist … not everyone has the proper personality and dedication to become successful at it. Those who can become successful know full well that it does not… Read more »
5 years 5 months ago

What an interesting discussion…
glad I tuned in just in time while it’s still FRESH.
Helps me to reinvigorate the challenges of running Rural Route Today – Forest N Farm! Go VT Digger… and good for you, Susan, to press for a full disclosure of Galloway’s long day with Governor Shumlin.
Looking forward to more on this subject.
And good luck to Bianca Slota as she moves into the next phase of her career.
Robin Reid

Duncan Kilmartin
5 years 5 months ago
Anne’s experience as a journalist correlates to mine as a legislator in the minority party in meeting with Shumlin. Peter Freyne called Jim D. “Governor Scissorhand”, but Sue Allen’s statistics suggest Peter would be calling Peter S. “Scissorhands” in the plural. Also, Jim D. did not always have several tax paid servants answering for him when the “heat” was on during these numerous press conferences and ribbon cutting ceremonies. It certainly appears that Liz Miller and Bill Sorrell are simply policial/campaign extensions of the Governor upcoming campaign. Liz has shown herself to be debasing the Public Service Department into an… Read more »
Doug Hoffer
5 years 5 months ago
Rep. Kilmartin said that, “Jim D. did not always have several tax paid servants answering for him when the “heat” was on during these numerous press conferences and ribbon cutting ceremonies.” First, I see nothing wrong with a chief executive asking those with expertise to respond to questions from reporters. For example, making the Commissioner of DPS available to answer questions is not a weakness but a sign of the Governor’s trust and his willingness to delegate. Second, Rep. Kilmartin’s comment about “paid servants” is both rude and disrespectful. Moreover – and as we all remember, Gov. Douglas had a… Read more »
Alex Barnham
5 years 5 months ago

Cruelty is not a virtue. Use a little lube.

Connie Godin
5 years 5 months ago

Wow, never seen so many comments. Love the Gov, not a journalist so have no opinion on the discussion, but certainly a discussion.

Andrew Lory
5 years 5 months ago

Thanks for the rapid and thorough response to my inquiry regarding Sue Allen’s comments. Illegitimi non carbarundum

Christian Noll
5 years 5 months ago

Well done Anne,

I think Gov Shum should book and extra room next trip to Dominica.

Looking forward to hearing about your day with the him.

The public has a right to know, and its your job to tell them. Keep up the good work.

Queen Anne has spoken, and the truth she speaks.

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