New statewide weekly paper begins publishing

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(Host) A new statewide weekly newspaper will be on the newsstands soon. The paper also plans to publish news on a daily Web site. The “Vermont Guardian” has opened offices in Winooski and Brattleboro, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Keese) Former Brattleboro Reformer Editor Kate Casa won’t be leaving town any time soon. Casa is one of three editors of the new statewide weekly. She’s the only staff in the paper’s new southern Vermont office, overlooking Brattleboro’s Main Street.

Staffing the Vermont Guardian’s Winooksi office are the paper’s founders, Greg Guma and Shay Totten. Both are Vermont journalists associated with earlier independent weeklies. Totten edited the Vermont Times, which operated for five years out of Chittenden County. Guma edited a paper called the Vanguard Press in the 1970s and 80s. He’s also the author of a book on Progressive politics in Vermont and a former coordinator of the Burlington-based Peace and Justice Center.

But Totten says the Guardian will be neither left nor right politically.

(Totten) “Too often journalists think only in terms of left or right and don’t really look at an issue and the truth of something. Rather than just saying, Well I quoted a Democrat so now I have to quote a Republican, it’s more difficult. And it takes more time and resources, which reporters haven’t really been given, to go out into a community and write a story about what’s happening. What are the cause and effect of an issue as opposed to how do people view it politically?”

(Keese) Casa, the former Brattleboro Reformer editor, was fired without explanation last spring by Medianews Group. That’s the Denver-based chain that owns both the Reformer and the Bennington Banner. Casa says the Guardian is partly a response to a growing discomfort with out-of-state ownership of Vermont media. The paper will be financed by advertisements and sales as well as seed money from Vermont-based investors.

Casa says the paper’s Brattleboro presence signals its commitment to covering all of Vermont. She says the state’s southern tier is too often left out of statewide conversations.

(Casa) “We’re the powerhouse of the state down here. We have the dams, we have Vermont Yankee. We have a lot of factors in this area that effect people in the rest of the state. And so when we cover those issues we’ll cover them in a way that will make it germane to other parts of the state as well as to southern Vermont.”

(Keese) The weekly and its daily Web site will also cover national and international news. The first issue is scheduled to appear September 24.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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