Vermont’s Congressional delegation and Governor Jim Douglas are rallying in support of Chris Graff, who was recently dismissed as head of the Vermont Associated Press. In a letter sent to the President and CEO of the Associated Press in New York City, the lawmakers call for Graff’s immediate reinstatement if Graff wants his job back. Graff has so far refused comment on his dismissal and the A.P. has not offered an explanation. Senator Leahy and the others say they want a substantive response to their request in order to “clear the air.”
Here is the complete text of that letter:
March 24, 2006
Mr. Thomas A. Curley
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Associated Press
450 W. 33rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10001
(By Facsimile To: 212-621-1908)
Dear Mr. Curley:
Along with our Vermont constituents, we are stunned, outraged and saddened by the summary dismissal this week of longtime head of AP’s Vermont Bureau, Chris Graff.
We send this letter without Mr. Graff’s consent or even his knowledge, and he probably would have asked us not to send it if we had asked. But 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. We realize that The Associated Press is a private, member-owned newsgathering service, but AP’s vital presence in Vermont, as across the nation, clearly propels this decision into the realm of public interest and concern. The public has placed its trust in AP and, in turn, the public expects a degree of openness from AP that has not been forthcoming. Accordingly, we expect a substantive response to our requests.
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. It was completely natural, for instance, when Vermont Public Television selected Mr. Graff more than a decade ago to be the permanent moderator of public television’s two leading Vermont-wide public affairs programs.
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 conclusion.
We support Chris 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.
Chris Graff is the personification of the great attributes of good journalism: professionalism, courage, steadiness, and public service by honoring the public’s right to know. We would like to believe that attributes like these, lived day-to-day by devoted reporters like Chris Graff, will never go out of style.
The Vermont Congressional Delegation
JIM DOUGLAS, Governor
PATRICK LEAHY, U.S. Senate
JIM JEFFORDS, U.S. Senate
BERNIE SANDERS, U.S. House of Representatives