From the Publisher: This Newspaper Is 'Essential' — and Handled With Care | From the Publisher | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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From the Publisher: This Newspaper Is ‘Essential’ — and Handled With Care 

click to enlarge LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
As this week’s Seven Days goes to press, 293 Vermonters have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; 13 have died. Both numbers are expected to rise.

We’ve seen other kinds of casualties, too, in our state. Tens of thousands of Vermont workers have been laid off from their jobs. Libraries, theaters, museums, community centers and places of worship have shut their doors. Iconic restaurants and local businesses have closed.

So far, that includes at least one local newspaper. On March 25, Paul Heintz reported on the demise of the Waterbury Record. He’s also covered layoffs at the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, the Valley News and Seven Days, as well as furloughs at the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. The Addison County Independent is now printing one issue a week instead of two. The Essex Reporter, Milton Independent and Colchester Sun are still publishing online but have ceased printing altogether.

A few readers have asked why Seven Days keeps printing and distributing the paper, when Gov. Phil Scott has issued an order closing all but essential businesses. Is journalism “essential”?

Gov. Scott believes it is, and so do we. So did our country’s founders, who protected freedom of the press in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, alongside the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

But, now that we can deliver the news online, is distributing a paper copy still necessary — or even wise in a pandemic?

We believe it’s both. Many of our readers, especially those with unreliable internet, depend on the paper as a primary news source. Others appreciate the variety and serendipity of a print product that reads like a magazine. People tell us they like being able to flip through the pages and see ads from local businesses, that they love doing the puzzles and reading the comics, that reading the paper gives them a sense of normalcy in these trying times.

Now that gathering together in groups is impossible, the paper functions as a community conduit — physical evidence of the place we share — that holds us together.

Fortunately, the virus doesn’t appear to live long on porous surfaces such as newsprint. There hasn’t been a single reported case of someone getting sick from a newspaper, magazine, letter or package delivery. Feeling extra cautious? Wash your hands after handling the paper. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this virus is thought to spread through person-to-person contact. That’s why Seven Days’ circulation drivers wear gloves when delivering the paper. They also practice social distancing. This helps keep them, and members of the public, safe. For an up-to-date list of drop-off spots, go to

Speaking of the paper, you’ll see more changes in this week’s issue. First, it’s smaller, at 64 pages; the number of ads we sell determines the size. The classifieds section — including the puzzles — has moved to the back. And the movie and art sections, like the calendar, are gone for now.

Also new: We now have 1,000-plus Super Readers supporting us financially. The donations that have poured in over the past few weeks have helped us to keep going — figuratively and literally. Those dollars will replace some of the advertising revenue that vanished overnight as a result of the coronavirus crisis. For almost 25 years, that revenue has been our primary source of income and the reason Seven Days is free. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has donated.

To become a Super Reader yourself, click here to “Give Monthly” or “Give Now," or contact us directly at
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... more


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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