From the Publisher: Talking Cure | From the Publisher | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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From the Publisher: Talking Cure 

Published November 11, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated December 1, 2020 at 5:13 p.m.

click to enlarge FILE: MARC NADEL
  • File: Marc Nadel

Brian Story could have been talking about any Vermont town when he described the politics of Johnson to Seven Days reporter Chelsea Edgar: "There are a lot of progressives here, but there are also a lot of conservative folks, a lot of farmers who have been here for generations. It's a diverse place, but there was a pretty strong sense of unity, until 2020," said the town administrator.

"I'd say that things have gotten a lot more heated."

In her story for this week's paper, Edgar takes the temperature of the artsy college burg where opponents of President Donald Trump have protested every week since he won election in 2016. Their activism has become a local movement with an agenda not everybody in Johnson embraces.

"Selectboard meetings, once permit-and-gravel affairs, have become forums on the town's duty to condemn racism," Edgar writes in her piece headlined "Torn Apart." That's how Richard Whittemore, a local plumber, describes Johnson today. He characterizes himself as "a good old American that has worked seven days a week all his life" — currently with plans to move to South Carolina.

No one was surprised that the Democratic candidate for U.S. president won Vermont by a landslide. Hundreds of people danced in the streets of Burlington when the national media outlets called the race for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Saturday. A few dozen supporters of President Donald Trump expressed their displeasure in a peaceful protest on the steps of the Statehouse in Montpelier.

But the vote totals tell a more complicated story. A higher percentage of Vermonters voted for Republican Gov. Phil Scott than for Biden — 68.8 percent versus 66.4. A greater percentage checked the box for Trump than for gubernatorial candidate David Zuckerman — 30.8 percent versus 27.5.

In the town of Johnson, votes cast followed a similar pattern: Scott, 1,066; Biden, 994; Trump, 528; Zuckerman, 451.

There's room for myriad political views and choices in our brave little state of Vermont — and in this newspaper. We've heard at regional newspaper conferences that many media outlets across New England struggle to attract conservative voices to their opinion pages. Seven Days gets feedback from writers of all political persuasions, from environmentalist Bill McKibben to former Reagan policy adviser John McClaughry.

I take that as a compliment. Whatever politics readers project onto the paper, our goal is to report what's happening in a way that is inclusive, rigorous and fair. All reactions are welcome. If they're signed, cogent and 250 words or less, we'll publish them in the paper and on our website.

For 25 years, it's been my job to assemble and verify the letters to the editor at Seven Days. I love the weekly task because it forces me to pick up the phone and call people — some of whom, judging from their written comments, are very unhappy with us. I get nervous sometimes, but the anxiety quickly dissipates when I hear a voice on the other end of the line. Sometimes I'm in the middle of leaving a message when the person picks up and apologizes for initially screening my call.

From complete strangers, I get story ideas, drop-spot reports and the occasional "Keep up the good work." Even the angriest readers appreciate the effort, which includes editing help to sharpen their points.

Our Sunday-night talks restore my faith in humanity — and, once in a while, yield a new Super Reader.

During this divisive time, I highly recommend starting and working through those difficult conversations.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

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About The Author

Paula Routly

Paula Routly

Paula Routly came to Vermont to attend Middlebury College. After graduation, she stayed and worked as a dance critic, arts writer, news reporter and editor before she started Seven Days newspaper with Pamela Polston in 1995. Routly covered arts news, then food, and, starting in 2008, focused her editorial energies on building the news side of the operation, for which she is a regular weekly editor. She conceptualized and managed the “Give and Take” special report on Vermont’s nonprofit sector, the “Our Towns” special issue and the yearlong “Hooked” series exploring Vermont’s opioid crisis. When she’s not editing stories, Routly runs the business side of Seven Days — overseeing finances, management and product development. She spearheaded the creation of the newspaper’s numerous ancillary publications and events such as Restaurant Week and the Vermont Tech Jam. In 2015, she was inducted into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

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