The publisher of a Vermont newspaper is defending his paper’s hiring of a convicted sex offender to cover police and courts. R. John Mitchell, publisher of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, said it is important to punish those who have broken the law but also to offer an opportunity for rehabilitation. In a Thursday story by a reporter for a sister publication, Times Argus editor Steven Pappas said reporter Eric Blaisdell disclosed his criminal history when applying for the job in June. Pappas checked references and with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. All said Blaisdell posed no risk to the public. Blaisdell served nine months in prison following a 2007 arrest for soliciting sex via computer with a 13-year-old girl who turned out to be a police officer. He had no physical contact with anyone.