News from The News

2019: A year of growth and change for The Charlotte News

Board of directors
The board of directors was significantly reshaped this year. Rick Detwiler, Patrice Machavern and Louisa Schibli (see below) left the board, and John Quinney, Lane Morrison, Ted LeBlanc, Claudia Marshall, Jack Fairweather and Christina Asquith joined it. The board also elected John Hammer as our first-ever emeritus trustee in recognition of his long, distinguished and continuing service to the paper as a board member and officer, financial supporter and voluntary Selectboard reporter. We’re now at full strength as a board and looking forward to a productive 2020 and beyond.

New strategic plan
Earlier this spring, the board approved a new five-year plan for the paper, identifying four overarching goals to reach by 2024: First, to continue producing a newspaper that the community values highly; second, to build a more robust digital presence to complement the print paper; third, to become financially solid, with the ability to innovate and control our destiny; and fourth to be recognized as the best small paper in Vermont. The board created three committees—editorial, fundraising and digital—to work toward these goals as quickly as possible.

According to a new study by the nonprofit organization PEN America, over 2,000 local news outlets have shuttered their doors in the last few years, and 1,000 more have become “ghost papers,” mere shells of what they were just a few years ago. Newspapers matter, according to PEN, “because they produce the bulk of reporting at the local level. So when you lose them you lose the watchdog function that is so important in our democracy.”

With the continued support of our readers and advertisers, we are especially focused on providing our readers with full and growing coverage of local news, including regular coverage of the Selectboard, the Planning Commission, the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) board and even, as you can read in this edition, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, so all of us in town can know what our local officials are doing in our name and why.

And again in 2019 an extraordinary number of people have volunteered to helped us cover, as we say in our mission statement, “matters related to Charlotte and the lives of its residents.” This year 124 writers and 48 photographers, almost all of them Charlotters—voluntarily submitted their stories and photographs for publication. Their names—which include your friends and neighbors, as well as their children—are listed below and on the next page.

The Charlotte News is truly the community’s paper and an example to the rest of the state of locally supported nonprofit journalism. I doubt any community paper in the state has the degree of voluntary support The News enjoys.

The Friends of The Charlotte News
Our sister organization also saw significant changes this year. Lynne Jaunich, who helped found the Friends in 2014, left at the end of the summer, and the remaining board members, Susanne Davis and Susan Sim, were joined by Nancy Richardson to continue the fundraising work of the board.

The Friends added two community events this year to bookend our annual summer appeal, and, with your end-of-the-year support, we’re on track to make 2019 our most successful year ever. If you have already given to the paper, thank you; if you haven’t yet, please consider making a contribution either by check (mailed to The Friends of The Charlotte News, P.O. Box 251, Charlotte, VT 05445) or on our website.

We’re also on track to have one of our most successful advertising years in recent years. Given the difficult state of print advertising across the country (the Pew Research Center estimates that, nationally, newspaper print advertising has plummeted from over $49B a year in 2006 to just over $14B in 2018), we take that as solid confirmation that local businesses see value in advertising in The News.

Louisa Schibli

And finally, on behalf of the entire board of directors, I would like to express my deep thanks to Louisa Schibli for her long service to the board. During her 12 years as a board member she led the development of three websites and worked with a dozen different editors and managers. She was steady as a rock while all about her things were, shall we say, quite fluid. She is leaving her position on the News board to join the board of VT Digger, but she is staying on with us as a volunteer member of our board’s new All Things Digital Committee, working with board members and staff to help The News gradually develop a more robust digital presence.

In announcing her departure from the board, Louisa said, “The Charlotte News will always have a very special place in my heart, as will all the board members and staff I was so lucky to work with.” We were lucky to have you with us for so long, Louisa, as is VT Digger in having you now. Best wishes from all of us in your new stint. To borrow a phrase from the world of theater (and journalism is arguably a related field), break a leg!