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Panel to examine history of Grafton conferences

BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont (UVM) will host a panel presentation on the so-called Grafton Conferences, a unique Vermont invention to advance inclusive nonpartisan deliberation about key policy issues in Vermont since 1984.

The panel, chaired by Stephan Morse, president of the Windham Foundation and former Speaker of the Vermont House, will take place at 7:30 p.m., on Thursday in the Memorial Auditorium in the Waterman Building at UVM.

The panel will include William Gilbert, Richard Mallary, Karen Meyer, and Jack Hoffman.

This year Morse will retire from the Windham Foundation. The Snelling Center for Government and the Center for Research on Vermont have organized this panel presentation to explore the contributions of the Grafton conferences on such issues as economic development and the environment, health care, energy futures, and citizen engagement.

In the 1980s, the Windham Foundation realized that there was no statewide vehicle to address public policy issues that affect all Vermonters. Lacking financial resources for consultants or think tanks, policy planners had no regular forum to debate issues in a way that might lead to unique Vermont solutions. It was from these observations that the Grafton Conference Project was born.

Grafton Conferences are two-day informal sessions held at The Old Tavern (Grafton, Vermont). They are free flowing, self-directed discussions of topics at hand, led entirely by the participants. Conference participants are chosen for their knowledge and previous work on a particular topic. They are asked to question their own positions, challenge others and leave any preconceived solutions outside the meeting. Most work is done in a combination of small breakout groups and larger plenary meetings.

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Vermont Public Radio wins five regional awards

COLCHESTER — Vermont Public Radio has been honored with five 2007 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for outstanding news coverage.

This represents the largest number of awards VPR has received at one time in the annual competition. VPR was honored with first-place awards in the categories of investigative reporting, news series, continuing coverage, feature reporting, and broadcast writing.

VPR's investigative reporting on Mexican immigrants working on Vermont farms took top honors in that category. VPR's John Dillon explored the cultural and legal challenges facing both immigrants and farmers in this three-part series. VPR was also honored for its continuing coverage of this issue.

In 2005, VPR's Steve Zind took VPR listeners on a personal journey through Iran: from the teeming streets of Tehran to the mountain village that was the ancestral home of his grandfather's family. In 2006, Zind returned to Iran to talk with people about the challenges of daily life there. His five-part series exploring Iran's domestic issues like joblessness, poverty, women's rights and freedom of expression, won first-place in the news series category.

Zind's coverage of a Montpelier peace song competition and a feature on ordering a coffin in advance also took top honors in the feature reporting and broadcast writing categories.

The awards are presented by the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). VPR won the prestigious awards in the small-market radio category that included stations in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

Posted April 2, 2007

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