Vermont PBS to replace show host after sponsorship controversy

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Vermont PBS is replacing a controversial host after just two episodes of a weekly talk show.

The host of Connect, Kristin Carlson, is a spokesperson for Vermont’s largest electric utility — which is a corporate sponsor of the station. Her hire was announced July 8.

That same day, writer John Walters noted on his Vermont Political Observer blog that “Carlson will keep her day job as spokesflack for Green Mountain Power. Does that bother anyone?”

Vermont PBS CEO Holly Groschner told the Seven Days blog that Carlson would not report on “energy-related subject matter” and that the host would focus on “personalities, on people with a personal story to tell and on stories of cultural interest to Vermonters.”

That didn’t satisfy Vermonters for a Clean Environment Executive Director Annette Smith, who told Seven Days that “it is a free promotional piece for Green Mountain Power to have their spokesperson there.”

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean commented on a piece from Vermont Digger: “I am and will continue to be a long time supporter of Vermont ETV but I am afraid they are wrong about this. . . . Kristen [sic] is a talented journalist and GMP is great company, but none of this means there isn’t a potential conflict.”

By Thursday, Seven Days reported that Vermont PBS said it would replace Carlson as host. Carlson told the Burlington Free Press that she didn’t want the controversy to distract from the program’s focus.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Vermont PBS by its previous name, Vermont Public Television.

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