Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Media Note: Burlington Free Press Lays Off Four Staffers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Tuesday's Burlington Free Press - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Tuesday's Burlington Free Press
Updated at 11:04 p.m.

The Burlington Free Press on Tuesday laid off four employees — including three newsroom staffers — in what appears to be part of nationwide downsizing by its corporate parent, Gannett.

Among those let go were features writer Sally Pollak, news reporter Cory Dawson and sports writer Lauren Read, according to multiple people with direct knowledge of the situation. Hours after the news broke Tuesday, the paper acknowledged the layoffs in a story on its website. In addition to the newsroom staffers, it said an employee in the advertising department was cut.

Pollak worked for the Free Press for 25 years, first as a sports writer and most recently as a food writer. She lamented the news on Facebook Tuesday afternoon.

“It was a good run: 25 years covering Vermont,” Pollak wrote. “Thanks to everyone for talking with me for stories and reading my stuff.”

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Media Note: Getler Out, Fogler In at Burlington Free Press

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 6:01 PM

Burlington Free Press website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Burlington Free Press website
After 22 months on the job, Burlington Free Press publisher Al Getler has been replaced by his predecessor, the newspaper announced Thursday. The Gannett-owned daily provided no explanation for Getler’s departure. He declined to comment.

Returning to the paper’s top job is Jim Fogler, who served as publisher for four years before leaving in September 2014 to become vice president of business development at Party City. Fogler returned to journalism — and Gannett — in January, when he took a job as publisher of the Poughkeepsie Journal.

According to the Free Press story announcing the transition, Fogler will now publish both papers. Even after he took the job in Poughkeepsie, the story said, he continued to commute between the two regions, because his family remained in South Burlington. 

“I’m excited to be back, and I look forward to reconnecting with the community as well as the team here,” Fogler told the Free Press’ Dan D’Ambrosio. “My plan is to split my time evenly between the two sites.”

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Media Note: In Essay Contest, Nobody Wins the Hardwick Gazette

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 8:04 PM

The Hardwick Gazette office - FILE: COURTESY OF HARDWICK GAZETTE
  • File: Courtesy of Hardwick Gazette
  • The Hardwick Gazette office
An attempt to give the Hardwick Gazette to whoever wrote the most compelling essay has failed. Publisher and owner Ross Connelly didn't get enough submissions to follow through.

Connelly, who is 71 and has spent three decades as publisher of the Northeast Kingdom weekly, announced the contest back in June. The concept was simple: People would submit a 400-word essay along with a $175 entry fee, and a panel of judges would pick the winner.

News outlets across the country, including the New York Times and Washington Post, picked up the story. Despite the media buzz, there apparently aren't many people interested in the grueling job of running a local newspaper in a remote, rural community. Connelly had determined that he needed 700 entries to make the contest financially viable for him; the Associated Press reported earlier today that he'd received only 140. 

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Media Note: Hardwick Gazette Essay Contest Gets a Final Deadline

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 1:12 PM

  • File: Courtesy of Hardwick Gazette
  • The Hardwick Gazette
Ross Connelly is still short on the number of essays he needs in order to give away his weekly newspaper, the Hardwick Gazette. But the 71-year-old owner and publisher is extending the contest deadline a second and final time — until October 10.

Connelly attracted national attention in early June by announcing he would give the Hardwick Gazette to whomever submitted the most compelling 400-word essay, along with a required $175 entry fee. He determined that he would need at least 700 entries to make the arrangement financially viable.

When he didn’t hit that mark, Connelly extended the deadline, from August 11 to September 20.

Now, he says, he’s pushing it back one last time.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Transparency Group: Cops Should Release Winooski Shooting Video

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2016 at 1:55 PM

The location behind the O’Brien Community Center where police shot and killed 29-year-old Jesse Beshaw. - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • The location behind the O’Brien Community Center where police shot and killed 29-year-old Jesse Beshaw.
A group that calls for government transparency is urging Vermont law enforcement to release videos that show a sheriff's deputy fatally shooting an unarmed man in Winooski last week.

The New England First Amendment Coalition wants officials to release body camera videos of the incident so the public can evaluate Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Nicholas Palmier's decision to open fire on Jesse Beshaw, 29, after a brief foot chase Friday evening in downtown Winooski.

Beshaw, the subject of an arrest warrant for burglary and unlawful mischief, approached Palmier with his right hand behind his back and did not respond to Palmier's verbal commands, Vermont State Police said. He was shot seven times and died at the scene.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Media Note: Herald Publisher to Retire, Photographer Fired

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 4:20 PM

The Rutland Herald headquarters - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • The Rutland Herald headquarters
Updated at 11:19 p.m.

The longtime owners of the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus are preparing to hand off the papers to two out-of-state investors.

"It looks like we will close the sale late this week, although that may still change," editor in chief Rob Mitchell wrote employees Monday, according to an email obtained by Seven Days. Mitchell's family has owned the Herald since 1947 and the Times Argus since 1964.

Chip Harris, who agreed last month to buy the papers with partner Reade Brower, confirmed Monday that the sale was imminent. 

"There's been no official date at this point," said Harris, a semi-retired publishing executive who lives in New Hampshire. "But the hope is we'll be closing by the end of the week."

In his email, Mitchell said that, "as part of this transition," publisher and CEO Catherine Nelson "has decided to leave the company and is retiring." 

"We should all wish her well in whatever comes next for her," Mitchell wrote. "My father [Herald Association president R. John Mitchell] and I will be backstopping her role this week or until the sale is final, so if you have questions please come to me or to Dad."

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Media Note: Free Press Hires Virginian to Run Newsroom

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 4:59 PM

Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot
Nearly a year after the retirement of former executive editor Mike Townsend, the Burlington Free Press has settled on a replacement. The paper announced Friday that it has hired former Virginian-Pilot editor in chief Denis Finley of Norfolk, Va., to take the reins of the Burlington newsroom.

"He's a good guy — a good find," said Free Press publisher Al Getler, hailing the new hire as a "solid leader" with a "very positive attitude."

Finley spent 28 years at the Virginian-Pilot, working his way up the ranks from staff photographer to the paper's top job. He served as editor in chief from 2005 until March 2015, when he took a job as communications director for the nearby Chrysler Museum of Art. Finley told Seven Days Friday that he "definitely missed journalism" and had been looking for opportunities to return to the field.

"I miss the daily drumbeat of news coverage — especially when there's an election coming around the corner," he said.

The Free Press has been without a newsroom chief since October 2015, when Townsend and four other veteran employees took a buyout offer from corporate owner Gannett. Getler said that he had stepped in during that period to "provide day-to-day leadership in the newsroom" and was looking forward to handing it off to Finley. 

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Media Note: Mitchells to Sell Rutland Herald, Times Argus

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 9:11 AM

The headquarters of the Rutland Herald - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • The headquarters of the Rutland Herald
Updated at 7:29 p.m.

The longtime owners of the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus have agreed to sell the Vermont newspapers to a company headed by a Maine publisher and a semiretired New Hampshire printing executive.

Herald Association president R. John Mitchell, whose father bought a stake in the Herald in 1947, announced the sale on the paper’s website late Wednesday in a story written by his son, editor in chief Rob Mitchell. It appeared on the front page of the Herald and Times Argus Thursday morning.

The front page of the Rutland Herald on August 11, 2016 - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The front page of the Rutland Herald on August 11, 2016
“We have always held these newspapers in trust for the public,” the son quoted his father as saying. “While we’ve always been a privately held company, we believe they are an asset of the communities they serve and of the state of Vermont.”

If completed, the sale would bring to a close 222 years of local ownership. The Herald was founded in 1794 and has billed itself as “the oldest continuously family-owned newspaper in the United States published under the same name in the same city.”

The buyers — Reade Brower of Camden, Maine, and Chip Harris of Center Harbor, N.H. — said they are committed to turning the papers around.

“I don’t have a cut and slash personality,” Brower told Seven Days Thursday afternoon. “I believe that you can’t save your way to prosperity. People are willing to pay for something if it’s good. I’m only interested in properties that I believe still serve their communities and are viable — and these two papers sort of fit the mold.”

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Media Note: Owner Extends Deadline for Hardwick Gazette Essay Contest

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 5:31 PM

  • Courtesy: Hardwick Gazette
Ross Connelly, owner and publisher of the Hardwick Gazette, generated quite a bit of national news coverage when he announced on June 11 that he would hand over his community newspaper to whoever wrote the most compelling essay. 

But despite plenty of interest in his contest, Connelly said Wednesday that he hasn't received enough entries to follow through on his offer. His rules stipulated he must get at least 700. He's extending the contest, which was scheduled to end Thursday, for another 40 days, until September 20.

A press release didn't state how many entries Connelly has received, and his press contact could not immediately be reached for comment. 

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Media Note: Rutland Herald Editor Says, 'It's Not as Bad as It Looks'

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 4:22 PM

The front page of the Rutland Herald on Monday, August 8, 2016 - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The front page of the Rutland Herald on Monday, August 8, 2016
Updated at 7:09 p.m.

The embattled editor in chief of the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus assured employees Monday morning that his family's news organization would survive.

"There is a future for these newspapers," Rob Mitchell told staffers at a companywide meeting in the Herald newsroom, according to prepared remarks he provided to Seven Days and other media outlets.

Mitchell addressed his employees three days after his father, company president R. John Mitchell, fired Herald news editor Alan Keays for covering the organization’s ongoing financial troubles. As the Herald itself reported last week, freelancers have gone weeks without pay — and staffers have seen their paychecks bounce.

The younger Mitchell acknowledged the turmoil Monday, calling it "embarrassing, humiliating and difficult.” While he said that all employees had since been paid and their expenses reimbursed, he did not indicate whether freelancers had been made whole.

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