Monday, April 03, 2006

"Good Night, Good Luck" and the firing of The AP's Chris Graff --



Please review the material in this post in light of our viewing of "Good
Night, Good Luck" and the NYU panel discussion. In Vermont, the longtime
Montpelier AP bureau chief, Chris Graff, was fired. Earlier, conservative
TV talk-show host Bill O'Reilly had excoreated Graff for his handling of a
story about a judge's sentencing. Days before his firing, Graff placed on
the wire an opinion piece by the state's Democratic senator critical of
the Bush administration's handling of open-records laws. Can you draw any
parallels to McCarthyism?

The latest, from the Burlington Free Press last week, quoted AP CEO Tom
Curley in a letter to the state's political delegation saying it is "just
nuts" to think The AP bowed to political pressure to fire Graff. It's
impossible to draw any factual conclusions so long as neither The AP nor
Graff will discuss things. But one has to wonder whether, in the absence
of the O'Reilly factor, this would have happened.

Here's a good quick wrapup (ironically, on a blog):


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Politicians demand reasons for AP departure

Published: Saturday, March 25, 2006

"In this situation, AP is not being secretive but respectful of an employee
with 27 years of service." -- Thomas Curley,AP president and CEO

By Erica Jacobson
Free Press Staff Writer

Vermont Gov. James Douglas and all three members of the state's congressional
delegation sparred in letters exchanged Friday with Associated Press President
and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Curley regarding this week's departure of
Chris Graff, AP's chief correspondent in Vermont.

Douglas, a Republican; Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt.; Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and
Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a letter addressed to Curley they were
"stunned, outraged and saddened by the summary dismissal" of Graff on Monday
and called him "the personification of the great attributes of journalism."

"We have not always enjoyed or agreed with AP's coverage decisions ...," the
group wrote, "but we agree that, by any appropriate measure, Mr. Graff has been
fair, objective, public-spirited, courageous and dedicated to the public's
right to know the truth."

The four leaders asked for Graff's reinstatement if he desires it.

Curley, in a letter e-mailed to Vermont media late Friday afternoon, said any
suggestions that Graff's departure came from the AP's bowing to political
pressure were "just nuts." Curley also said the AP would not discuss
confidential personnel decisions.

"It is inappropriate to expect AP to open up personnel records of one of its
employees to public scrutiny unless it is forced to do so under court order,"
Curley wrote. "In this situation, AP is not being secretive but respectful of
an employee with 27 years of service and is adhering to the widely accepted
personnel practices and labor laws that I'm certain you adhere to in your own

AP Northern New England Bureau Chief Larry Laughlin announced Monday that Graff
had resigned, but would not comment on why the journalist, who was in charge of
AP's Montpelier office, no longer worked for the organization.

Graff, reached by phone Friday night at his Montpelier home, said he did not
resign from his job but could not elaborate on the situation for legal reasons.

He found out about the letter sent by Vermont political leaders shortly after
noon Friday from a friend who had heard about it on the radio.

"I was completely taken by surprise by the letter and it just took my breath
away," Graff said. "I was just very touched by what they said about me.

"That they worked together to write this letter means very much to me."

Graff said he met Friday with his lawyer to consider what "options and
opportunities lie ahead" but hadn't really begun to digest the events of the
week. He also moderated the latest segment of "Vermont This Week," a media
roundtable that airs on Vermont Public Television. Graff said he will continue
to host that program.

"They seem to like me there," Graff said.

Contact Erica Jacobson at 660-1843 or


The Rutland Herald wrote an editorial. The Herald's publisher, John Mitchell,
is an AP director:

You're fired

March 25, 2006

The abrupt firing of Chris Graff as the head of the Montpelier bureau of The
Associated Press was a shocking piece of news to those who follow public
affairs in Vermont. Now Gov. James Douglas and Vermont's three-man
congressional delegation have written a letter to the president of AP in New
York City demanding an explanation.

It is an unusual turn of events when public officials rally to the defense of a
journalist. More often than not, journalists serve as whipping boys for
politicians uncomfortable with the message contained in the news.

But Douglas, along with Sens. Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords and Rep. Bernard
Sanders, wrote that Graff was "the personification of good journalism:
professionalism, courage, steadiness, and public service by honoring the
public's right to know."

It was in the service of the public's right to know that Graff may have erred,
at least in the eyes of AP. The American Society of Newspaper Editors had
requested a column from Leahy on openness in government to coincide with
Sunshine Week, which the press was using to emphasize the importance of the
public's right to know. Leahy complied, and AP in Montpelier moved the column
on the wire to be used by member newspapers.

But quickly the column was yanked off the wire. (The Herald, which received the
column from Leahy's office, ran the column on its op-ed page.) The story going
around was that putting a partisan piece by a politician on the AP wire was a
violation of AP policy. Maybe it was, but if that alone was AP's reason for
firing Graff, it was a sorry excuse.

One might wonder about a journalist who won such strong praise from
politicians. If they liked him so much, could he have been doing his job?

But the praise earned by Graff from the politicians was a clue to a reality the
AP brass may not have understood. Graff and the AP's Montpelier bureau have
made politicians of both parties uncomfortable from time to time, but Graff has
earned the admiration of journalists, politicians and the public over the years
because of something else.

For one thing, he knows Vermont. Vermont is a community that takes an interest
in its public affairs, and the public grew to rely on Graff's fairness,
objectivity, knowledge, and dedication to community. The tone of the news
coverage in a place affects the tone of public debate, shaping the political
climate of a community. Graff established a tone of respect and a rare
combination: seriousness and humor. Politics in Vermont remains largely
respectful and focused on serious issues, in part because of the contribution
he has made.

Douglas and the congressional delegation have requested Graff's reinstatement
or at least an explanation about why he was fired. AP is a member-owned
cooperative and not a public institution, and it has declined to comment on
what it considers a personnel issue. So much for sunshine.

The result is we don't know the story of why one of the most well-known and
respected journalists in Vermont was summarily cashiered. Maybe Graff would
rather be done with AP now. But it is a loss for Vermont.


(Sabina is editor of The Reformer; she used to be at the Rutland Herald)

State's top pols call for Graff's return to AP

Saturday, March 25

By Sabina Haskell
Brattleboro Reformer Staff (a MediaNews Group daily)

BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont's congressional delegation and Gov. James Douglas joined
the chorus Friday of those calling for the reinstatement of Christopher Graff
to his job as Montpelier bureau chief of The Associated Press.
In what can only be called a highly unusual move -- politicians rushing to the
defense of a journalist -- Sens. Patrick Leahy and James Jeffords along with
U.S. Rep. Bernard Sanders and Gov. James Douglas asked AP President Thomas
Curley to reconsider the dismissal of Graff.

"The prominence of this position, the importance of AP to our state and its
communities, and the poor treatment of a prominent and respected Vermont
journalist of Chris Graff's caliber make this a matter that we cannot ignore or
passively accept," the letter states.

Not even this newsworthy turn of events could persuade AP to file its own
story, leaving its Vermont media members to report the story themselves.

Graff, 52, has worked for AP in Vermont since 1978; he became bureau chief two
years later.

On Monday, AP dismissed the veteran newsman and immediately the speculation
centered on Graff's decision to post to the AP wire Leahy's opinion column on
open government and public records law that was highly critical of the Bush
administration. It was recalled within an a hour with an editor's note telling
members not to use the piece.

Leahy was asked to write the column by the American Society of Newspaper
Editors in honor of Sunshine Week, which celebrates the First Amendment and the
federal Freedom of Information Act. Leahy is regarded as one of the premier
champions of the federal FOIA efforts.

Graff has also come under intense fire from controversial Fox TV host Bill
O'Reilly for a pair of articles on Judge Edward Cashman, seeking to clear the
record on a sensational story of what Fox deemed Cashman's lax and lenient
treatment of a child rapist.

Neither AP nor Graff will confirm the accounts appearing in the media. Both
have refused to comment on the firing, citing employment law that protects
personnel records.

Vermont's lawmakers were not persuaded.

"There have been many reports suggesting the reasons for Mr. Graff's abrupt
termination. Although we choose not to fuel speculation, we believe that if any
of these reports were founded, it would represent a serious breach of trust by
AP with its loyal Vermont readership. If AP wants to repair this rift, it must
work to clear the air -- to let the sunshine in -- on this most unfortunate

Although the governor has joined the congressional delegation on other national
issues affecting Vermont, this is the first time they have collaborated on a
more personal matter.

"It's definitely the first time we've joined together to defend a journalist,"
said Jason Gibbs, the governor's press secretary. "The focus for the governor
was to highlight the many, many good years of service to the people of Vermont
and the AP and to seek some explanation to the reason they did what they did
and urge them to reconsider."

Indeed, in the letter to Curley of the AP, the lawmakers admit that being in
the media spotlight isn't always easy but they deserve fair coverage.

"As news subjects ourselves, we have not always enjoyed or agreed with AP's
coverage decisions -- the same can be said by any frequent news subjects about
the news organizations that regularly cover them -- but we agree that, by any
appropriate measure, Mr. Graff has been fair, objective, public-spirited,
courageous and dedicated to the public's right to know the truth. He has been a
tremendous credit to AP in Vermont and beyond," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter concludes with the request of Graff's immediate reinstatement, "if
that is what he would want."

"Beyond that, we also ask for answers to questions that continue to proliferate
in the wake of this decision."

Curley's response, in writing, came hours later and did little more than
acknowledge the attention Graff's firing has drawn to the newsgathering

Curley told Vermont lawmakers that AP will continue its steadfast refusal to
discuss the internal personnel issue.

"You know we cannot and will not engage in a discussion of confidential
personnel decisions," Curley said. "In this situation, AP is not being
secretive but respectful of an employee with 27 years of service and is
adhering to the widely accepted personnel practices and labor laws that I'm
certain you adhere to in your own workplaces."

Curley offered his own words of caution. "We understand in the absence of any
detail people will continue to speculate about what happened. However, we must
note that speculation can be erroneous and damaging both for Chris and The
Associated Press."

AP's response fell short of the mark, said Gibbs.

"We're not particularly enthusiastic," he said, adding an explanation is in

Graff did not return a call seeking comment.


Editors Ask AP to Explain Dismissal

By John P. Gregg
Valley News (Lebanon, N.H.) Staff Writer

Several editors and publishers in Vermont yesterday called for The Associated
Press to explain publicly why the not-for-profit news cooperative has fired its
chief correspondent in Montpelier.

"I don't see how anyone could be satisfied with their response. Absolutely
not,' said Emerson Lynn, publisher of the St. Albans Messenger. .The ironies in
this are just overwhelming . you're talking about an incident involving
Sunshine Week, transparency, openness, something the AP is not being..

Supervisory Correspondent Christopher Graff, a 27-year AP veteran widely
respected in Vermont's journalism and political circles, was fired Monday by
Larry Laughlin, the wire service's Concord-based northern New England bureau

No reason has been given publicly, but earlier this month AP's Montpelier
bureau placed on the wire an opinion piece by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,
to coincide with .Sunshine Week,. a media-backed campaign to promote open
government. The Leahy piece, which was quickly pulled from the wire, criticized
the Bush administration's .near-total disdain for the free press and the
public.s right to know..

On its own Web site, AP calls itself .the bastion of the people's right to know
around the world..

Although AP maintains strict neutrality in its reporting -- in a news story,
the wire service would have sought White House comment on Leahy's sharp
criticism -- several prominent journalists in the state said they saw no basis
for Graff to be fired. They also said that AP had run a piece by Leahy during
last year's Sunshine Week without any resulting controversy.

.I was flabbergasted when I was told this was going on. I thought it was a
joke,. Marselis Parsons, the news director and anchorman for WCAX-TV, the
largest station in Vermont, said of Graff's dismissal. .I think if there is
more to it (than the Leahy column), they owe their members -- not just clients,
we are members, damn it, of a cooperative -- a more rational explanation..

.I think the whole thing (stinks),. added Mark M. Smith, the publisher of the
St. Johnsbury-based Caledonian-Record, which is more conservative than other
papers in the state. .I think Chris got screwed..

Smith said he believes that the decision to fire Graff came from .some
boneheads in New York,. where AP is headquartered, not from Laughlin.

.The New York mentality of the upper echelons of AP does not belong in the
state of Vermont, or New Hampshire,. Smith said.

Lynn said he and several of his colleagues plan to send a letter to AP
.expressing our alarm and concern. about the situation, and that many would
like to see Graff reinstated.

Sabina Haskell, editor of the Brattleboro Reformer and president of the Vermont
Press Association, said she is likely to sign the letter and noted that her
paper is running an editorial today about Graff's firing. Haskell also pointed
out that Graff recently had debunked, through his reporting, the basis for some
of the national criticism a Vermont judge faced for imposing a light sentence
on a sex offender so he could get treatment.

.It's really troubling when the media caves to outside pressures, and that's
what this feels like,. she said.

Graff, 52, declined to comment yesterday, saying he is .restricted from talking
about any issues with my employment with The Associated Press..

He also said he has hired a lawyer, Karen McAndrew. The Web site for the
Burlington litigator's firm says she specializes in employment law.

Asked about the discontent among several Vermont editors and publishers, New
York-based AP spokesman Jack Stokes yesterday said he could not comment.

.We consider this a personnel issue, so we're not talking publicly about it,.
Stokes said.

Some editors said they did not feel AP was obligated to provide more
information, noting that the wire service was constrained by employment law.

.Privacy issues are privacy issues. You get sued for disclosing. personnel
matters, said Mike Townsend, executive editor of the Burlington Free Press,
Vermont's largest newspaper. .I don't think there is a higher standard, just
because it.s AP. You certainly want to know what went on, but Chris Graff could
clear this up right away. by discussing the situation publicly.

The dispute has also put R. John Mitchell, publisher of The Rutland Herald and
Times Argus, in the hot seat as some of his fellow publishers in Vermont demand
more information from AP, where he sits on the board of directors.

.I'm in a fairly awkward position being on the board, because I'm torn -- and I
have talked with AP about this -- about the fact that I'm representing the
members, and I.m also supposed to look out for the welfare of the company,
meaning AP,. said Mitchell, who has been on the board for three years.
Mitchell's Rutland Herald won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for its editorials on
Vermont.s civil unions debate.

Mitchell said he believes a board of directors .shouldn't be involved in the
day-to-day operations. of the company, and also said AP Executive Editor
Kathleen Carroll told him she could not discuss the issue with him. He does not
believe AP should be obliged to give its members more information about the
Graff case, given employment law.

.No, because their hands are tied, as many hands have been, as an employer. No
matter what your feelings are, and no matter how dumb you look in not saying
anything, you can't say anything because it's a personnel matter,. said
Mitchell, who also said Graff .made an enormous contribution while he was at

Valley News Editor Jim Fox said he believes AP should be more .forthcoming.
about Graff's departure.

.I would like some explanation, and I don't think it would be out of line for
them to provide one to the members in some way,. said Fox.

While Graff's stories on Vermont politics, including his vast knowledge of the
state's political history -- he grew up in North Pomfret and attended
Middlebury College -- no longer come across the AP wire, he will still enjoy
some audience through the Vermont Public Television show he has hosted for 14

.Chris will be in the chair (today) as host and managing editor of Vermont This
Week,. VPT Executive Producer Joe Merone said in an e-mail. .We've relied on
his editorial integrity and judgment in those roles for a long time..


THIS WAS PUBLISHED IN 'SEVEN DAYS' the Burlington, Vt.-based alternative week:

Inside Track: By Peter Freyne
"An irreverent read on Vermont politics"

Why the AP Fired Christopher Graff

(published 03.22.06)

It's a big bad world out there, folks, and outside forces have more control
over what we read, watch and hear on the news in Vermont than we'd like to
imagine. But shortly after 1 p.m. on Monday, that reality hit home with a loud

"Hey," said the familiar voice on the phone, that of a Montpelier political
operative, "you want to be the new bureau chief of the Associated Press?"

"What? Are you on drugs?" we asked. "What the hell are you saying?"

"Chris Graff just got fired," he replied. "Check Darren Allen's 'Hall Monitor'
blog in the Times Argus."

We did:

Chris Graff no longer with the AP: One of the most venerable and well-known
bylines in Vermont media was silenced today, as Vermont AP Bureau Chief Chris
Graff was said to no longer be with the world's largest news gathering

Reached at his Elm Street home in Montpelier, Chris sounded as stunned as the
rest of the state's media world. "I am trying to figure it out myself," the
newsman said.

His boss, Concord, N.H. Bureau Chief Larry Laughlin, was in town today and all
he would say was, "Chris Graff is no longer with the Associated Press."

Chris Graff graduated Middlebury College in 1975 and started his news career
covering the Statehouse for WFAD in Middlebury. In 1978, he was hired by the
Associated Press, and two years later became the top dog at the Montpelier
bureau. Jimmy Carter was in the White House, phones had cords and nobody
imagined email. For the last 27-plus years, Graff's been Vermont's Mr.
Reliable, but on Monday the news service abruptly fired him.

Yours truly has worked in the Vermont news biz long enough -- since 1979 -- to
have been fired a few times. But throughout our ups and downs, Chris Graff has
been a cornerstone for the entire Vermont press business.


Because from his days as the young AP Vermont boss in the shabby but quaint
little bureau above Montpelier's Thrush Tavern, to his recent days as the
middle-aged bureau chief in the new, upscale AP digs a few blocks away along
the river bank, Chris Graff has consistently made the calls, especially the
close calls, that established the Vermont AP wire as the gold standard for news

We've heard him criticized for leaning to the right. And we've heard him
blasted for leaning to the left. Who the critic is seems to depend on which
side is losing at any given moment on any given issue. It goes with the

If not for the fact that he's never wanted to live anywhere but Vermont, Graff
could easily have become a top AP byline on the national and international news
scene. We've been very lucky to have him.

As a stunned-looking Marselis Parsons told Ch. 3 viewers Monday evening, "The
AP did not comment, and Graff could not be reached for comment. Politicians
ranging from Jim Douglas to Pat Leahy said it is a huge loss and a complete
surprise. Some AP clients were astonished by the news and intend to appeal the
wire service headquarters in New York."

So what happened?

First of all, Mr. Graff is saying nothing beyond confirming that he was indeed
"fired." He told "Inside Track" on Tuesday he is meeting with an attorney and
is in the process of negotiating a separation agreement with AP.

"To me, reality is setting in today," said Graff, "but what made today special
is seeing all the nice comments" in the morning's newspaper stories about his

All of a sudden here's a chill in the air, the smell of fear, people worried
about their jobs. The reporters at the Montpelier bureau we've contacted have
not responded to inquiries.

However, an "Inside Track" investigation of Graff's firing has uncovered the

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.

Sources say the Leahy column moved on the Vermont AP wire on Wednesday, March
8, as part of a "Sunshine Sunday" preview package. Also in the Sunday package
was a feature on Gov. Douglas' attempt to bar access to public records by
invoking the "deliberative process privilege." Sunday kicked off "Sunshine
Week." Open government was a national theme raised by many news outlets coast
to coast.

But shortly after the AP Sunshine package moved on the Vermont wire, an
unidentified AP editor up the food chain abruptly yanked it. Vermont AP clients
were notified it was being withdrawn. Here's what went out on the wire:


The Associated Press


The Sunshine Week column by Sen. Patrick Leahy, sent without a dateline in
advance March 8 for use in Sunday newspapers of March 12, has been eliminated.
The material should not have moved on the wire. No sub will be filed.

The AP.

Sources say the objection was over moving an item written by a "partisan
politician" without including a rebuttal from a partisan politician of a
different stripe.

Can you believe it?

The gods at AP fired Chris Graff because of something St. Patrick wrote about
open government! Leahy isn't even a candidate for office this year. Why is open
government suddenly such a touchy topic at AP?

The remarkable thing is that one year ago, Mr. Graff moved a different Leahy
column on the FOIA as part of ASNE's first annual Sunshine Week. Surely, if the
higher-ups at the "new" AP had a problem, they would have mentioned it back

With both Graff and AP management declining comment beyond confirming the
firing, we cannot confirm that the Leahy open-government column was the only
reason Graff was sacked. Indeed, many in the news biz wonder if his courageous
defense of truth and accuracy during January's Fox News vs. Vermont firestorm
involving Judge Edward Cashman was also a factor.

You'll recall that in his trademark "nothing but the facts" style, Graff
courageously doubted the original WCAX-TV report that Cashman had told the
court he "does not believe in punishment."

A startling statement, if true. But the AP veteran requested the court
transcript and ran an eye-opening article several days later based only on the
facts, and the facts were that the judge never said what Ch. 3, and some other
media outlets, had reported.

While that article may not have won him much praise at WCAX, it demonstrated an
admirable commitment to getting the facts right. It also made him a nightly
target for the #1 right-wing trash talker on Fox "News" -- Bill O'Reilly.

O'Reilly went on a three-week crusade, crucifying Judge Cashman and anyone who
defended him. Certainly, getting slimed night after night by name on the
national airwaves by so prominent a right-wing mob leader must have made
Graff's AP bosses take note?

We don't know, because AP management isn't talking. Secrecy is the order of the
day at the world's largest news service.

Sen. Leahy's chief of staff Ed Pagano called Graff's firing "shocking."
Informed we'd be reporting that Graff's decision to publish the senator's
open-government column got him canned, Pagano said he had "no information to
either confirm or deny it." Big Ed wondered aloud "how open government could be

A free press, mes amis, is the key to having an open government, and this
unfortunate episode comes in a long line of recent oversights by America's free
press. Instead, it's been a free reign of terror for the Bush administration.
Constitutional rights have been ignored, the U.S. Treasury is in a shambles,
and Big Oil is running its own war, with the U.S. military -- especially our
National Guard weekend warriors -- as their private security force. As St.
Patrick wrote in the statement AP censored:

The right to know is a cornerstone of our democracy. Without it, citizens are
kept in the dark about key policy decisions that directly affect their lives.
Without open government, citizens cannot make informed choices at the ballot
box. Without access to public documents and a vibrant free press, officials can
make decisions in the shadows, often in collusion with special interests,
escaping accountability for their actions. And once eroded, these rights are
hard to win back.


Once again we're reminded that the only thing 1984 author George Orwell got
wrong was the date. With Big Brother controlling the White House, both branches
of Congress and the Supreme Court, taking over AP was only a matter of time.

P.S. One other thing. Mr. Graff says he plans on being in his familiar anchor
seat Friday evening for the next edition of "Vermont This Week" on Vermont
Public Television.

Might be worth watching, eh?




Graff gone from state AP bureau

March 21, 2006

By Darren M. Allen Vermont Press Bureau
(Rutland Herald owns the Vermont Press Bureau)

MONTPELIER . One of the most venerable and well-known bylines in Vermont
journalism departed Monday with the ending of Christopher Graff's tenure as
head of the state's Associated Press bureau.

The reasons for his sudden exit Monday were not released by Larry Laughlin, the
chief of the AP's bureau in Concord, N.H., and Graff's boss.

"Chris Graff is no longer with the Associated Press," Laughlin said in a brief
telephone interview from the AP's Montpelier offices Monday. "It's a personnel
matter, and I can't talk about it any further."

Graff, whose byline has appeared over some of the state's biggest stories in
the past quarter-century, also did not comment on why he has left the bureau.
Reached by telephone at his Elm Street home in Montpelier, Graff said that he
was shocked and still digesting the news.

"I'm trying to figure it out myself," he said.

Considered one of the deans of the Vermont press corps, Graff had been with AP
since 1978 and had been Vermont bureau chief since 1980. In his 25 years at the
helm of one of the state's most influential news gathering operations, Graff
interviewed and wrote about practically every person in any position of power
in Vermont.

Because of the nature of the Associated Press . it is a news-gathering
cooperative owned by its member newspapers, radio stations and television
stations . Graff's work appeared in most media outlets in the state. With that
kind of readership and viewership, Graff was one of the handful of reporters
whose calls are almost always returned.

News of his sudden departure stunned members of the media and political
communities Monday.

"Chris Graff is an extraordinarily well-qualified and well-respected journalist
who has been serving the people of Vermont for many, many years," said Jason
Gibbs, press secretary for Gov. James Douglas, who, as a Middlebury College
undergraduate, worked on that college's radio station with Graff.

"His departure from the Associated Press is a real loss to the state and to
journalism as a whole," Gibbs said. "The governor is saddened by the news."

John Mitchell, publisher of the Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times
Argus, also was caught by surprise Monday morning. Even though he is a member
of the AP board of directors, Mitchell said he had no advance word about
Graff's departure.

"I am still absorbing the news," Mitchell said. "It is hard to imagine a
Vermont news scene without Chris at the AP."

Graff also has briefly tangled with national politicians and pundits, 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.

Graff also is widely known to Vermont television viewers as the amiable host of
"Vermont This Week" on Vermont Public Television, a job he's had since 1992.
That show's executive producer, Joe Merone, said he was shocked at Graff's
departure from the AP.

"Chris has been a valued partner and colleague of mine and of Vermont Public
Television," Merone said. "He is someone who has always put the quality of the
product he produced first and foremost. I don't think that there's a single
journalist in Vermont with as much historical perspective, institutional
knowledge and most importantly a love of our state than Chris."

Whether Graff was fired or resigned was unclear Monday, although Laughlin's
presence in Montpelier was unusual. Laughlin did not return later calls for
comment, and an AP spokesman in New York e-mailed a reply that simply said, "In
response to your media query, I can confirm that Chris Graff is no longer with
the company but we routinely do not talk about personnel issues."

Laughlin did say in his earlier interview that Graff will be replaced, and the
bureau's complement of four reporters would not be cut.

Sabina Haskell, managing editor of the Brattleboro Reformer and president of
the Vermont Press Association, did not know about Graff's departure until a
reporter called seeking comment.

"I am stunned," she said. "The AP in Vermont has always been on the lookout for
the small papers in the far-flung corners of the state and worked hard for us."

It was also unclear Monday how his departure would affect Graff's other media
jobs, like his regular contributions to WDEV-FM's morning news broadcasts, his
"Vermont This Week" hosting duties or his regular roster of specials for VPT.

One other media veteran said she hoped Graff would continue serving the news
consumers of the state in some form or another.

"Chris has such a deep knowledge of this state and, in the last 25 years,
particularly of its political history that I personally will really miss the
depth and context that he brings to his reporting," said Candace Page, a
long-time reporter for the Burlington Free Press and a frequent guest on
Vermont This Week. "I was stunned by this news, and I'm just very sad that he
won't be writing for the AP anymore."

Contact Darren Allen at


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