BY CAROLYN VAN VLECK
BRANDON — Interested readers of The Reporter learned about the upcoming transition from profit to nonprofit status of the local newspaper from the newly formed nonprofit board of directors and current editor and owner Angelo Lynn. About 20 community members were present at the Thursday evening meeting in the OVUHS auditorium with others attending via Zoom.
Brandon residents Steven Jupiter, George Fjeld, M.D., and Barbara Ebling, owner of The Book Shop in Brandon, are the current board of directors for the nonprofit, which is looking to add up to nine members to the board.
Jupiter said that he and Lynn had been talking about forming the nonprofit for the past six months with a transition date of Jan. 1, 2023.
Lynn, a fourth-generation journalist who bought the Addison County Independent in 1984 when he was 30, and bought the Brandon Reporter from Roy Newton in January 2005, noted that the three options facing the Reporter were: shutting it down, trying to sell it to an outside firm (which was unlikely), and helping the community form a community nonprofit to run the newspaper — a method of running newspapers that has been gaining popularity across the country as small newspapers face closure.
Lynn said that while The Reporter had been profitable all the years he has operated it, the bigger challenge he said was filling key positions.
“The biggest challenge facing The Reporter,” Lynn said, “was the shortage of labor, and the lack of housing” — problems that many other businesses throughout the state and region are also facing since the pandemic started in the spring of 2020. That problem, however, can be temporarily solved if interested community members step forward to volunteer for the nonprofit this first year.
Other than the communities’ support through subscriptions and getting businesses to advertise, he said community members could help by agreeing to report on specific aspects of community life that they are involved with. In newspaper lingo, such positions would be referred to as “beat reporters,” such as a reporter who covered sports, or agriculture, or the schools. A person might volunteer to write, for instance, occasional reports on the local 4-H club, or Rotary, or the events of a local library, or a bi-weekly column on what was happening at their local elementary school.
The Reporter would still hire reporters to cover the town selectboard and school boards, along with some feature stories and serious issues facing the community, he said, but all the other smaller things of importance could be covered by community members.
The Addison Independent, he said, will continue to provide some third-party services (front office, some sales and distribution) to assist The Reporter in its early years of operation or until they are not needed.
He said the normal operation of the newspaper by the nonprofit would allow the newspaper to become sustainable, but that modest donations and higher revenue from subscribers would be two legs of the three-legged revenue stool needed to build a thriving paper to serve the area’s needs.
At the newspaper’s previous peak (roughly 2015-2017), Lynn said, the business hired three full-time employees (Lee Kahrs as editor, Alyssa Zohlman as business manager/advertising sales, and Stephanie Manning as the graphics designer.) To get back to that peak, he said afterward, would only require local businesses to once again advertise regularly in the paper and to encourage area readers to contribute by buying a year-long subscription with a little added on for those who could afford it.
A PAPER FOR EVERYONE
Steven Jupiter emphasized that while the current board was only composed of three people, all from Brandon, the intent was to broaden the scope and depth of the board to include Proctor, Pittsford, Leicester, Goshen, Sudbury, Whiting and the other communities that have historically been covered by the paper.
“We started with three board members, people who I know, because that’s the minimum you need to form a nonprofit board,” he said, “but our intent is to have representation on the board from each town and possibly from each major area of interest the paper covers.”
“We want this paper to represent the entire communities we cover,” he said, “and not just be a paper that caters to a few of us. We want a diverse board, representing young people as well as older, and people who represent the cultural diversity of our communities.”
Jupiter encouraged people with an interest in seeing The Reporter be a strong newspaper reflecting the local culture to step forward with ideas of how to make the paper better and help make that happen.
Dr. George Fjeld, who recently retired, explained that the role of the board would be initially to act as publisher, set the goals, make sure the paper complied with journalistic norms, insured financial stability, and handle the staffing of the paper. Money to publish The Reporter, he said, would come from subscriptions, newsstand sales, advertising, donations, and grants.
Jupiter added that the board planned on expanding both the volume and interests in the newspaper by adding gardening, hunting and fishing, cooking, agricultural, conservation, nature, volunteer spotlight, military news, and other matters of interest.
He emphasized that a community newspaper needs to be “all about a community” and asked townspeo- ple get in touch with him regarding story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. He reiterated that the board “hopes to make The Reporter more personal and community-oriented again” by inviting town residents to contribute community news — including weddings, births and anniversary announcements — plus any events that they might be putting on. “In other words,” he said, “to make it a real mirror of the community.”
An advertisement on page 15 of today’s Reporter provides a way to get in touch with each board member and ideas on how individuals can be involved.