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

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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Friday, August 5, 2016

Rutland Herald Fires News Editor Over Coverage of Paper’s Woes

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 5:56 PM

The front page of the Rutland Herald on Friday, August 5, 2016 - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The front page of the Rutland Herald on Friday, August 5, 2016
Updated at 6:55 p.m.

After green-lighting a story in Friday’s paper about financial troubles at the Rutland Herald, news editor Alan Keays was fired later that day by owner R. John Mitchell. 

According to education reporter Lola Duffort, Keays was summoned into a meeting with Mitchell and publisher Catherine Nelson late Friday afternoon.

“He just walked out,” Duffort told Seven Days in a call from the Herald newsroom. “People asked if [they] had fired him, and he nodded his head and walked out.”

Seven Days heard from seven people with direct knowledge of the situation late Friday, all of whom corroborated elements of the story. Neither Mitchell nor Nelson immediately responded to a request for comment.

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Media Note: Rutland Herald Staffers Revolt Over Payroll Problems

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 11:40 AM

The front page of the Rutland Herald on Friday, August 5, 2016 - SCEENSHOT
  • Sceenshot
  • The front page of the Rutland Herald on Friday, August 5, 2016
Employees of the Rutland Herald spoke out against their bosses Friday — on the front page of their own newspaper. 

In a story quoting five newsroom staffers and freelancers by name, Herald staff writer Gordon Dritschilo wrote that his colleagues "bristled Thursday in the face of continued silence from management regarding the newspaper's apparent financial difficulties." 

As Seven Days reported Wednesday, the family-owned Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus have not been reimbursing employees for expenditures and have not been paying some freelancers at all. 

According to Dritschilo's story, "a number of staff payroll and expense checks bounced" in recent weeks. He quoted photographer Anthony Edwards saying that he stopped working for a time after going weeks without pay because he could not afford gasoline. Edwards was forced to borrow gas money from his mother.

"It wasn't a lot, but to us it is," Edwards told the Herald

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Media Note: Rutland Herald, Times Argus to Scrap Monday-Wednesday Print Editions

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 6:23 PM

Rutland Herald website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Rutland Herald website
Updated at 11:20 p.m.

Starting next month, the oldest daily newspaper in Vermont will no longer be a daily newspaper.

The Rutland Herald and its sister publication, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, plan to cease print publication on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, sources within the family-owned company said late Monday afternoon. The newspapers will continue publishing online those days and will still distribute a print edition Thursday through Sunday. The changes are set to take effect the week of July 4.

Publisher Catherine Nelson briefed Herald employees on the changes Monday afternoon, while owner R. John Mitchell did the same with Times Argus staffers. Neither responded to requests for comment. Hours after Seven Days first reported the development, both newspapers published stories online confirming it.

In an interview with the Herald, Mitchell framed the move as a means of avoiding further layoffs. The papers have repeatedly trimmed staff in recent years.

"We’ve cut, I think, all the jobs we can without really decimating the newsroom," Mitchell told his paper. "This is an attempt to keep from having dramatic layoffs in the newsroom and to try and monetize the technical base we’ve built for social media."

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Media Note: The Hardwick Gazette Is For Sale for 400 Words

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 7:29 PM

  • Courtesy: Hardwick Gazette
After 30 years as publisher of the Hardwick Gazette, Ross Connelly is ready to pass the torch. To find someone to take over the 127-year-old weekly — the self-described "newspaper of record in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont" — he's holding a contest.

Entrants will pay $175 and submit an essay of no more than 400 words describing their "skills and vision for owning a newspaper in the new millennium." The author of the most compelling piece — as determined by a panel of judges including Connelly — will become the Gazette's ninth owner and publisher.

In a phone interview, Connelly, who turns 71 this Saturday, said, "I've still got the passion but I don't have the energy, and newspaper readers deserve and need new blood." 

Selling businesses through essay contests has become something of a trend, though the Gazette may be the first newspaper to go this route. Before this, Connelly tried other methods. He considered turning it into a "community-supported" paper but couldn't find anyone to actually run it. 

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Media Note: VPR Cries Foul Over Lisman’s Use of Its Photo in Campaign Flier

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 3:40 PM

Lisman’s flier - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Lisman’s flier
The flier that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lisman sent to Vermont Republican voters last week makes prominent use of a photo that his campaign obtained from Vermont Public Radio’s website — without VPR’s permission.

The photo depicts Lisman’s rival candidate, Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, applauding as he stands close to Gov. Peter Shumlin. It was taken in January 2015 by VPR news staffer Angela Evancie at Shumlin’s inaugural address, over which Scott, as lieutenant governor, presided.

Lisman’s campaign didn’t ask permission to use it, and if it had, VPR would have said no, said John Dillon, the station’s news director.

“It’s outrageous that they felt free to use the photo. This is copyrighted content, and it’s just plain wrong to use other people’s property without permission,” Dillon said. “We’ve never allowed our photos to be used by political campaigns.”

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Media Note: News Outlets Face Tough Choices on Graphic Police Videos

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 5:33 PM

Ralph “Phil” Grenon and Officer David Bowers - COURTESY PHOTOS
  • courtesy photos
  • Ralph “Phil” Grenon and Officer David Bowers
On Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors announced that Burlington police officer David Bowers would not face charges for fatally shooting knife-wielding Ralph “Phil” Grenon, a mentally ill man who engaged in a five-hour standoff with police before he was killed.

Hours after the announcement, Burlington police released to the media several hours of footage of the standoff, recorded by officers’ body cameras. The videos include the moments in which Grenon, 76, rushed officers with a knife and was gunned down.

Both Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan and Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said they believed the footage was part of the public record, but they urged the media to exercise restraint.

“The Burlington Police Department, the state’s attorney and the family of the deceased urge discretion and good sense in the propagation of these images,” del Pozo said in a prepared statement. “We believe that the need to hold the police accountable of the use of deadly force, which lies at the heart of a democracy, does not immediately translate into the need to widely and directly disseminate all of this footage. Please use good judgment.”

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Media Note: Massachusetts Group to Buy Southern Vermont Newspapers

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Updated at 11:24 a.m.

For the past two decades, a series of distant media corporations has owned Vermont’s Brattleboro Reformer, Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal

Next month, that’s set to change. 

The papers announced Thursday that a group of Stockbridge, Mass., residents plans to buy New England Newspapers next month from New York-based Digital First Media. The sale includes the buyers’ local paper, the Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Eagle, along with the three Vermont properties. 

“For local journalism, for local readers, for community newspapering, it’s like winning the lottery,” said Kevin Moran, vice president of news at New England Newspapers. 

The new ownership group, called Birdland Acquisition, includes three Stockbridge residents: former VISA president John “Hans” Morris, former Pittsfield District Court judge Fredric Rutberg, and M&T Bank chair and CEO Robert Wilmers. Former Buffalo News publisher Stanford Lipsey is also part of the group.

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