Vermont editors, publishers to discuss future of local journalism

Online forum previews Next Stage's screening of 'Storm Lake,' a documentary about a family-owned newspaper in the midwest

BRATTLEBORO — Vermont Independent Media (VIM), publisher of The Commons, will host a panel discussion with Vermont publishers/editors about the future of local journalism on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. on Zoom.

VIM's panelists will discuss the turmoil in local journalism today and how publishers and editors are dedicated to keeping newspapers alive.

Panelists include: Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize–winning editor of the Storm Lake Times; Tim Calabro, editor/publisher, The White River Valley Herald; Angelo Lynn, publisher/editor, Addison Independent; Randolph Holhut, news editor, The Commons; and Melanie Winters, news editor, Brattleboro Reformer.

The discussion previews the screening of the award-winning documentary Storm Lake, presented by Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival at Next Stage Arts on Friday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.

The film depicts the triumph and struggle of the Storm Lake Times, an small-town, family-owned newspaper in Iowa, and poses the question: “Does American democracy survive without the backbone of independent local journalism?”

The newspaper industry has been in steady decline triggered by a loss in readership and ad revenue which have been migrating to other media - most notably, digital. Then came the pandemic and the ensuing sluggish economy that impacted core advertisers and promotion of community events, causing major decline in advertising revenue.

According to The New York Times, over the last 15 years, more than 1 in 5 newspapers in the U.S. has closed. Readers across the country told the Times in a 2019 survey how they were affected by the decline of local news: “Our community does not know itself.”

The panel discussion represents one of a series of events VIM has been producing around media education as part of our Media Mentoring Project, says Lynn Barrett, board president.

VIM's founders envisioned a forum for community participation and media education that would build media skills among residents, students, and people who are disenfranchised and to reach these audiences through public workshops and special events. Local journalism students have also been invited to the event to not only listen in but ask questions.

The discussion will be hosted by Tim (Johnson) Arsenault, a 48-year broadcaster and member of the Vermont Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame who works part-time for WTSA-FM in Brattleboro.

This event is co-sponsored by Vermont Independent Media and Next Stage Arts. Registration is required: Email [email protected] for the Zoom link.

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