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Even in Vermont, print newspapers fade as web use rises

In Vermont, where the pace of life is relatively slow, the population trends older than the national average, and people pride themselves on buying local and organic, print newspapers are giving way to Internet news sites.


On July 4, two of Vermont’s 11 daily newspapers, the jointly owned Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, eliminated their Monday-Wednesday print editions. The news came two weeks after the publisher of the weekly Hardwick Gazette in Hardwick, Vt., announced he would give away his newspaper in an essay contest after having tried unsuccessfully for two years to find a buyer.


“I think we were at the place that all newspapers get to currently,” John Mitchell, chairman and president of the Herald Association Inc., told the Herald in an interview after the cuts were announced “. . . We've cut, I think, all the jobs we can without really decimating the newsroom. 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.”


Mitchell declined to comment for this story.


On the same day the Rutland Herald and News Argus reported their switch to a four-day print schedule, the non-profit news website VtDigger.org announced it had exceeded its $150,000 fundraising goal.


As Vermont newspapers have shed reporters in recent years, VtDigger has been hiring. The site employs 14, including five reporters who cover the statehouse. All but one of the site’s employees came from a newspaper, VtDigger Anne Galloway said in an interview.


Galloway is a former newspaper reporter jettisoned in a round of layoffs. She was let go from the Rutland Herald in January 2009, she said. She founded VtDigger later that year.


“In Vermont, you have the same dynamics as you have everywhere. We have about half as many people in the news business now as we did 15 years ago,” she said.


News of the reduced print schedule at the Herald and Times Argus came as a surprise, said Michael Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association.

“There was still some shock in Vermont when the Herald and Times Argus announced that they were cutting from seven down to four days of print, especially when about a month ago they had just touted that they were jacking up their Sunday paper, that it was going to increase from 24 to 36 pages,” he said.