Behind The Scenes
31Dec/120

Looking forward to a new year (an editorial)

Here's a sneak peek at tomorrow's editorial:

Another year has come and gone, and we are already looking ahead to what 2013 has to offer.

While not nearly as traumatic as 2011, this past year still had several news items that seemed to crop up time and time again; Local stories that had a connection to a "bigger" picture, whether that was a statewide or national issue. So, while we continue to compile our year in review content, which will publish this weekend, consider this a Top 10 things-to-keep-an-eye on list. Not necessarily resolutions, these are stories and/or concepts we think will continue to engage our attention for the next 12 months.

- With many inches of snow falling throughout the area in the past week, it's already looking to be a better winter tourism season than what we experienced last year. Add to that the recent effort by several area chambers of commerce - Brattleboro, Manchester and the Mountains and the Mount Snow Valley - pooling their efforts to promote winter tourism in southern Vermont through an ad campaign featuring a 5-second clip showing in Times Square and a advertisement in Horizons magazine. If we can get a few more storms this winter - preferably spaced out for those of us who still shovel our driveways - we're sure area restaurants, bed and breakfasts, ski resorts and other businesses will reap the rewards.

... speaking of money ...

- Brattleboro officials are still putting the finishing touches on the next fiscal budget, which has created quite the headache since voters approved renovations to the police and fire departments but passed on a sales tax increase which would have helped pay for the project.

Stories like this will play out around the state, as towns continue to struggle with less money and bigger projects that just can't be put off any longer.

... which brings us to ...

- Is an end to the recession in sight? Probably not, what with lawmakers still playing politics with the Fiscal Cliff. What we'd hope to see is continued rejuvenation in our county's downtowns. Whether it's long-standing local businesses continuing to serve the community, or new businesses popping up all around (of which there were several this past year), a vibrant local economy will continue to create jobs and keep us moving in the right direction, economically speaking.

... and while we're on the topic of recovery ...

- As local home- and property owners continue to cut through the red tape and get their lives back on track following Tropical Storm Irene and the subsequent flooding in August 2011, we can only hope that the standstill and sense of limbo being experienced by our friends and neighbors can come to an end. Vermont was able to dodge another storm-walloping this past year, as Superstorm Sandy stayed along the coastline, but we're still not back to 100 percent.

... on the subject of neighbors ...

- What a great reflection on Vermonters and, specifically to us, Windham County and the surrounding area. Residents continued to step up during the recent holiday rush, to raise money and/or donate to the many important causes local groups and organizations are tasked with assisting toward. From the Windham County Heat Fund to Project Feed the Thousands to the many local food pantries - the need is still there and continues to grow, and residents continue to respond. We would be remiss to not mention our own effort, the Reformer Christmas Stocking, which continues to slowly inch closer to its $90,000 goal. Thanks to everyone!

... Developing developments ...

- Broadband and cellular access continues to be an issue for Vermont as a whole. That's why it's a relief, in some ways, to see not one, but two new towers being discussed for the Newfane area. Add these to the continued effort by the Shumlin administration to make sure all corners of the state are "wired" for the future. We were also pleased to see the way in which AT&T interacted with residents as their project moved forward in Newfane ...

... which brings us to ...

- It will be interesting to see how the ongoing discussion about a possible wind farm continues in Windham (and in neighboring Grafton). Will lawmakers in the coming weeks set to discussion a possible moratorium on wind projects in the state, and what sort of affect will that have on the future of the "industry" in Vermont? Will that put the brakes on any discussion in Windham? What weight, if any, with Windham's town plan (which prohibits commercial wind ventures) have on the project? Our hope is that, if and when these talks resume, the company planning this possible venture is sure to involve town officials and residents (much like AT&T).

... and in educational news ...

- We'll continue to watch the Brooks House/college project move forward in downtown Brattleboro, where it's clear such a venture is sure to have a positive affect in and around Main Street.

... and while we're talking about Main Street ...

- What does the future hold for the River Garden? Will is be sold? Become something new and different from what organizers once imagined? Perhaps there's room for collaboration between the Brook House college plans and what's happening at the River Garden.

... and finally ...

- As we enter our 100th year as a daily newspaper, we aim to continue offering readers a daily snapshot of the local news of the day, in all of our various formats. Look for weekly reflections on our 100th anniversary, and something special planned for March.

Thanks for reading and happy new year!

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31Dec/120

Budget for Jan. 1, 2013 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Jan. 1, 2013 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

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30Dec/120

Power of the press (Putney Diner edition)

On Dec. 6, following-up on a tip, we reported about a well-known eatery -- The Putney Diner -- which would be closing after several decades.

After sparing the eatery from extinction seven years ago, owner Robin Wright is ready to sell the place she considers the heart of the town. ... She said she cares about the place too much to manage it poorly and so the time has come to sell. The last day of business will be Sunday, Dec. 23. ... "We have a nice little clientele. We have the best customers. I love them. They're awesome," she said sitting on one of the stools in front of the counter of the 1,200-square-foot building. "They're sad (it's closing) but they understand. They don't really see Heather here because they know she has the baby. They miss my mom and they know I'm up (in Maine). They're just really hoping that somebody else comes and opens it again."

You can read the full story here.

As it turns out, after that story ran there was an overwhelming outpouring of support from the community, and the diner's owner has decided not to close down.

Earlier this month Robin Wright announced that she would be selling the building and closing the restaurant unless someone came along with a good plan to keep it open. ... This weekend, Wright heard the plan she was hoping to hear. ... After meeting Friday afternoon with Amanda Streeter, an employee of the diner, Wright has decided to lease the restaurant to her and the diner will reopen later this month.

You can read that full story here.

Wright told the reporter that after the initial story was "in the paper, a lot of people came in and talked about how much they would miss the diner if it wasn't open ... Things went great with Amanda and this is great news." She also added that there had been an uptick in business since announcing the restaurant would close.

Now, I know it took a lot more than reporting this story in the newspaper for things to play out the way they did. But it's nice to see positive action transpire in the community and know you had some part in it.

It does a lot to validate the work we do.

30Dec/120

Budget for Dec. 31, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Dec. 31, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

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28Dec/120

Budget for Dec. 29, 2012 weekend edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Dec. 29, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
27Dec/1214

"Let is snow!" (the headline screw-up edition)

Normally, getting mentions across the blogosphere would be a flattering thing -- recognition for your hard work and whatnot. But today, it was definitely a source of embarrassment.

In case you haven't seen or heard:

From Gawker: Let Is Snow! Greetings From Brattleboro, Vt.

And from Jim Romenesko: How the heck did this happen?

So, when I sat down to craft this blog, I kept running over the reasons in my mind (which I'll share in a moment) of how or why a mistake like this can and does happen. But everything just sounded like an excuse. And the truth is: There is no excuse.

Let me repeat that: There is no excuse.

This was an obvious and unfortunate mistake and there's no really good reason for it, apart from human error and rushing.

So, to answer Mr. Romenesko's question, here's how something like this happens:

-- The newsroom this week is moderately understaffed due to sickness, vacations and the holidays.

-- Due to the upcoming storm, we shifted the regular nightly deadline up two hours on Wednesday night (to ensure we'd be able to deliver the paper in the snow and keep our carriers safe). As an aside to this, I neglected to contact the night crew: I was doing extra work on the day shift and thought we'd still have more than enough time to complete the paper. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't done that.

-- After talking to the night editor about the error, I learned we had a few computer-related issues during the night shift, forcing the night crew to re-boot our production equipment a few times. In and of itself, this is a normal occurrence. However, in this case, it pushed her up against the night deadline, and a last minute re-write of what that original headline was (and I'm paraphrasing: from the more boring "area makes final prep for winter storm") to something more creative/interesting ("let it snow, let it snow, let it snow") ... well, it was a rush job and human error crept onto the page at the last moment when there was no more time for a final view of the page.

Again, none of this is an excuse. There is no excuse. But, I take a little comfort in the above-linked Romenesko post that shows human error is not Reformer-specific. When people are tasked with several stories or pages a day six days a week, usually rushing to get the work done, it's clear mistakes will be made. The challenge is making sure few, if any, make it on the air, in print, or online.

A big apology to the readers. As always, I'll use this opportunity as a learning experience, and since New Years Eve is right around the corner, it's the perfect opportunity for a resolution to eliminate typos (as best we can) from the Reformer moving forward. Especially in the main, front page headline!

27Dec/120

Budget for Dec. 28, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Dec. 28, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
26Dec/120

Why not southern Vermont? (an editorial)

A sneak peek at tomorrow's editorial.

If at first you do succeed, try again!

We know that’s not exactly the way that classic phrase goes, but please allow us to coin a new one for today.

After a successful 5-second showing in Times Square earlier this year, Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce Director Jerry Goldberg decided to make another go of this promotional endeavor ... and this time he brought along a couple of colleagues for the ride. (Truth be told, that 5 seconds was really more like 20 minutes of Times Square exposure, collectively.) Goldberg, along with the chamber directors for Mount Snow Valley and Manchester and the Mountains, has put together a new, 5-second clip, promoting Southern Vermont as a tourist destination via the big (and we mean big!) screens in New York’s famous Times Square.

And what better time for such exposure than New Year’s Eve?

According to a release, “the 5-second commercial features all three destinations with a series of local images. The spot will be featured on ABC’s Astrovision screen as well as on the brand-new Times Square screen and will run in rotation on each screen 120 times from Thursday, Dec. 27, through Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2013.”

(Remember when we said “big.” That Astrovision screen is 5,000 square feet!) The promotion will also include a full-page ad in Horizon magazine, which is distributed to approximately 100,000 Wall Street Journal subscribers in the New York City metropolitan area.

“The big story this time is that those of us responsible for promot­ing southern Vermont, we really feel how important it is to promote southern Vermont as a major destination,” Goldberg told the editori­al board on Wednesday, following the announcement. “A lot of tourists are shooting up and shooting past. We’re saying, ‘Take a look around. You can find what you’re looking for in Southern Vermont. And save some mileage to boot!’” The initial Brattleboro The One and Only campaign ran for a week in the beginning of September, and we lauded the creative approach at the time, promoting Vermont as not just simply a winter tourist destination.

So, did Goldberg see any success from that run?

“One of the reasons I did it was to get Brattleboro — the one and only Brattleboro — on people’s screens,” Goldberg said. “While the ad itself may not have done a lot, the coverage of the ad did a lot to get the name Brattleboro out there.”

Indeed, the unusual campaign was picked up by various news out­lets and must have created enough of a buzz to create fans of the idea.

“I think it shows, that my colleagues at Mount Snow Valley Cham­ber and Manchester and the Mountains chamber were on board immediately and without question ... They see the value there, too.”

We applaud the move, also. It would appear, to many outside of the area, that a true Vermont vacation can only be had when you trek up into the central part of the state. But southern Vermont — Windham and Bennington counties — fulfill the needs of any tourists. From the outlets in Manchester and the slopes at Mount Snow and Stratton, to the deep history on display in Bennington and the vibrant arts scene in Brattleboro and its surrounding towns, what more could one ask for? Add to that the plethora of local restaurants and bed and break­fasts, and you can’t go wrong.

So we hope this effort does well to promote the values of southern Vermont to the rest of the country. And while we’re at it, we’ll pitch southern Vermont as a good place to “stay-cation” at, too — for daytrips or weekend getaways.

Kudos, once again, for our local officials thinking outside of the box to promote the good our region has to offer.

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26Dec/120

Nice to be appreciated

I wanted to share the following letter to the editor from earlier this week, for two reasons. First, it shows the effect our coverage can have on the community and our readership (which spreads far beyond south eastern Vermont, these days). Second, it shows the effect social media can have on crowd sourcing and news reporting.

Santa decoration (circa 1960s)

Thank you for your recent article regarding the 50th Birthday of Santa and for recognizing the “I grew up in Brattleboro” Facebook page. I am the person that started the page and I am glad to know that it is meaningful to so many and that you are watching. Social media at it’s best! Thank you again.

(P.S. The letter from is from Maryland.)

The article in question was about a two-story Santa decoration, created by a local family 50 years ago. We received an e-mail from a member of the family earlier this month, with an old photo of the Santa -- which has since been donated to an area school and prominently displayed (it can be seen from the Interstate) -- a clip from an old Reformer and a brief history on the piece.

At the same time, a member of the newsroom came across a post on the decoration on a Facebook page. And so, we were able to merge new photos from our staff photographer, comments from Facebook and the history of the piece, and craft a nice little piece for publication.

26Dec/120

Budget for Dec. 27, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Dec. 27, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading