The Burlington Free Press is located in a rabbit warren of attached buildings at 191 College Street, in the heart of Burlington, Vt.
“We live in a world of thievery,” says The Burlington Free Press Executive Editor, Mike Townsend, without us “the [Internet] bloggers would have nothing to write about. We are the major producers of information in our local community, and no one can tell you any differently.”
Giving the community access to the newspaper and demonstrating a passion for covering local news characterize the ethos of The Burlington Free Press. But The Free Press no longer has the space to be the “paper of record” for its town. “We can’t spread ourselves out like that anymore,” says Townsend.
Instead, The Free Press prioritizes and provides public service news -- watchdog journalism -- and what Townsend calls “passion topics” for its readers: politics, the environment, local food, and culture. The Free Press “swamps” a story. During the last election, it posed a different question each week for 12 weeks that was answered on its editorial page by all six gubernatorial candidates. In Townsend’s opinion, no other local news media organization offers that depth of coverage.
The newspaper’s commitment to covering local news is seconded by its Digital Developer, David Farré. As one of its reporters told Farré in the newsroom, “Until the newspaper goes there [in Sept. 2010, The Free Press sent a reporter and photographer to cover the Vermont National Guard in Afghanistan] … the story hasn’t been told.”
Farré, who enjoys helping reporters translate their work to the web, thinks there will always be a readership for print, but he questions whether the print edition is now the best platform for breaking news. Farré describes a new audience that is discovering a variety of digital platforms as preferring “web at work and print at home.” The Free Press has a “commitment to finding the readers wherever they are,” says Farré.
Read the reports of The Free Press reporter/photographer team, Sam Hemingway and Ryan Mercer, who visited the Vermont National Guard in Afghanistan; see Enterprise Stories. Learn about the time when the power and purpose of the press became apparent to Mike Townsend and David Farré. Click on J-Epiphanies on the WNN toolbar.
Coming Next in the New England segment of the “Who Needs Newspapers?” report: The New Hampshire Report -- The Concord Monitor. PLUS a Bonus Interview with Randy Bennett, Sr. VP Business Development for the Newspaper Association of America.
-- Sara Brown and Paul Steinle