By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
(Video produced and published by Wctv8.com – length 1:07:00)
The first of four media panel discussions took place Thursday night at the Norman Williams Library giving noted journalists an opportunity to discuss their work and field questions from the audience.
The featured presenters were Vermont Standard owner and publisher Phil Camp and the Standard’s General Manager Jon Estey, flanked by Moderators Bob Hager, retired NBC correspondent, and John Mathews, retired newspaper reporter, editor and NBC producer, who helped to preside over the forum.
Addressing a small gathering, Camp said that his paper’s philosophy of effective communication and service to the community is what drives and lies behind the success of the 160-year old weekly newspaper, the oldest in the state.
“To us, service to our communities is more important than profit,” Camp stressed. “Little things and ordinary people are just as important as big things and extraordinary people. We’re in the business to hold up a mirror to the community. We have a responsibility to provide information to people who want, need and deserve it.”
Estey explained that the Vermont Standard serves the towns of Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Reading, Quechee, West Windsor, and Woodstock. The weekly circulation is 4,800 with an estimated readership of 12,000.
The newspaper has now entered the 21st century, Estey noted, with an electronic edition established two years ago, duplicating the printed version, in addition to a website that features videos, photos and blogs as well as special interactive surveys, and links to non-profit organizations. Readers may also connect with the newspaper via Facebook and Twitter.
“The web edition is a bonus with additional content,” said Estey. “Aside from videos and photos, it also links into breaking news and updates. We’re still trying to find creative ways of putting information on the web because there’s unlimited space. Ultimately, though, the idea is to join together all facets of the paper including print, electronic and social media.”
Other reasons for the newspaper’s success through the years, Camp said, have to do with a devoted readership, product loyalty, long-term commitment of personnel, devotion to the community, and a strong management team.
Accordingly, the paper’s organizational structure includes the publisher, general manager, managing editor, business manager, production manager, news editor/reporter, webmaster, classified/circulation coordinator, sales representatives and a delivery person.
“We have a small staff, but a lot of contributors, some of whom don’t even get paid,” said Camp. “The satellites around our core team are our contributors who write the columns without whom we couldn’t exist. Our commitment to community service organizations is unprecedented in publishing. We actively support and interact with more than 50 nonprofit organizations.”
Since its inception, Camp said, the Standard has never missed a publication. Despite the burning of the newspaper’s offices in 1867, a flood in 1973 that destroyed the pre-press and press operations, and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 that demolished the office building, issues continued to be circulated.
Currently, the Standard is located at One Lincoln Corners in West Woodstock. In the 25 weeks since the flood, Camp added, 22 of those have seen increased revenue over the same week during the previous year.
“Probably the most remarkable aspect of that entire event was the outpouring of support, good wishes, and publicity,” Camp remarked.
Publicity reached such local and national news telecasts as CNN, MSNBC, The Weather Channel and Fox.
“Our success publishing that first week under extreme circumstances literally catapulted us into the national spotlight, giving us publicity never before achieved”, Camp said.
Strong applause ended the symposium in a little over an hour’s time with audience member Rick Fiske exclaiming:
“Woodstock is a wonderful place to live because we have a great newspaper that tells us what’s happening every week.”
Future media panel presenters include Marselis Parsons, former News Director of WCAX-TV on Feb. 28; John Gregg, news editor of the Valley News on March 7; and Steve Zind, reporter for Vermont Public Radio on March 14.