Locals reflect on The Charlotte News’ history

The original Charlotte News logo from 1958.

News with the local slant

By Nancy E. Wood

Last July, at the beginning of the yearlong countdown to this 60th anniversary of The Charlotte News, I wrote about how the paper was started because of my horse, Sox. It was time to sell her, but we needed to find a buyer nearby because she balked at being loaded in a trailer. Back in 1958, advertising choices were limited to the regional newspaper or to notes pinned to bulletin boards at the local stores. We needed a local newspaper.

Long story short, The Charlotte News was born, first nurtured by the teens in the youth group of the Charlotte Congregational Church and eventually by a long list of dedicated and talented adults who have kept Charlotters informed about local issues for 60 years. The paper has helped us get to know our neighbors, stay informed about town government and share our stories of life in this special place. “The news with the local slant” was its first slogan, printed at the top of the first page on July 18, 1958.

I wonder what the next 60 years will bring. We’ve moved from the print to the electronic age of media, with a constant bombardment of information from all over the world. I hope in 60 years there is still a place for a community-centered news source, locally owned and produced, that celebrates a vibrant Charlotte still full of the volunteer spirit that provides the strength of our town today.

So happy 60th birthday to The Charlotte News and all the folks that support and produce it today.

The lifeblood of the community

By Joan Weed

In 1996 when we moved to Charlotte, we soon learned that one needed to read The Charlotte News to be in the know. It was later that we learned of the charming story of the newspaper’s beginnings. Having lasted for decades, proof was evident of the community’s love for its little town paper. We soon learned we didn’t want to miss reading an issue, and I doubt we’ve ever missed one after moving here.

The paper is the lifeblood of the community even in the face of competition that came occasionally through the years. Congratulations to the current Board of Directors and editors, as well as those of the past who kept the force of the “news” flowing in Charlotte’s veins. The dedication shown is unique for a town of our size.

I wish us all many years of reading and being in the know.

Real news

By Mason Daring

It’s the 60th anniversary of this august publication. Did you know the traditional gift for 60th wedding anniversary is diamonds? Seems a little pricey to me; if you asked me to guess I would have said bauxite.

When I think of the importance a newspaper can exert in a community, I think back to a wharf in New York City in the year 1841. A periodical titled Master Humphrey’s Clock was published in London that year, and it contained, among other news, a serialized form of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. Bearing in mind that Dickens was paid by the word, his combination of cliff-hanger chapters and lengthy descriptions of intrepid characters and bleak places lent itself to long and heartfelt tales.

In this particular tale, a young beauty, Nell, and her grandfather are hounded through England by the villainous Quilp, whose interest in Nell could only be hinted at in these early Victorian times. Remember the death of JR in Dallas? Remember worrying about Carrie’s fate in the last episode of Homeland? Those are child’s play compared to the national anxiety generated in the U.S. by the arrival from London on a packet ship of each week’s installment of The Old Curiosity Shop. Dickens’ treatment of Little Nell was strangely cruel, despite his lavish praise for her kindness and beauty. The poor girl was hounded out of London and across the moors by the evil Quilp, and the readers simply couldn’t stand it when the next to the last installment hinted at her imminent demise. When the ship bearing the last installment sailed into New York, it was greeted by an angry mob demanding to know the fate of Young Nell.

Spoiler alert: the book has been around for 175 years, plus. If you haven’t read it by now, tough noogies. Dickens killed Little Nell off, dispatching her tormenter Quilp shortly thereafter. This was the only time Dickens ever killed one of his heroes, and it sent the English-reading civilization into literary cardiac arrest. New Yorkers flew their flags at half-mast for weeks. I am not making this up. This was the power of the weekly paper in 1841.

I once subbed for a sick friend who had a paper route. Up at four, collect the bundles, fold them into handy throwing shapes and set off at a brisk pace trying to get them on the right porch by the right time, taking great pride in launching the missiles hard enough to make it to the porch but not hard enough to get through the picture windows. I was, frankly, horrible at it. But I loved being part of the chain of information that brought the news to those who insisted that it be part of their morning routine.

TV, radio and the internet have marginalized the importance of the printed word. And yet there are those who, like me, love the tactile gentility of books and papers, especially that little “flap” of sound when you snap it into shape before you pick up your coffee cup.

As with most of us I am a slave to the internet, and yet it creeps me out to walk into a house where I see no books whatsoever. Ditto newspapers. There ought to be at least one paper lounging on a table in my house at any given moment.

We all know that newspapers are going the way of the wooly mammoth; circulation is the lowest it has been since 1945. Circulation for U.S. papers has fallen for 28 successive years, down 8-10 percent in the last year alone.
But has anyone noticed that the phrase “fake news” never existed before the digital age? Our feeling was, if you could hold it in your hand, you could believe in it. And if your newspaper was local, you might know someone who worked on the paper, which meant you could trust them. I don’t know anybody who works for Instagram or Facebook.

So rejoice in this diamond of an anniversary. Rejoice that you are reading a paper put out by people who look out at the same mountains that you do. Rejoice that it prints news you can trust. Diamonds indeed.

The News launched my career in journalism

By Meghan Neely

I started contributing to The Charlotte News as an undergraduate at Champlain College and now cover Selectboard exclusively. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in May and I can’t thank this newspaper enough for the experience it’s given me.

Despite living in Burlington for four years, I’d never heard of Charlotte or its local newspaper before April. That was when my future editor, Melissa O’Brien, contacted one of my professors looking for a journalism student who was interested in covering Town Meeting.

I decided to take her up on the offer, even though I didn’t really know what a Town Meeting was. A few days later we met at Charlotte Central School and the rest was history. I went on to cover regular Selectboard meetings and even a walkout at Champlain Valley Union High School.

I’m back in my home state of Massachusetts now, writing full time for a weekly newspaper in a coastal town called Wareham. There’s no doubt in my mind that the time I spent working with The Charlotte News helped me to secure a job in my field so quickly after graduation. For that, this publication holds a special place in heart.