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Clippings: Farewell to the Addison Independent

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Posted on April 30, 2015 |
By Zach Despart



It is with a heavy heart that I announce that this is my final column for the Independent, as I will be joining the Free Press next week, where I will cover Burlington and city hall.

It was not an easy decision to make, but it was also too difficult to pass up and I look forward to the next step in my career. As I told my colleagues last week, I know I will likely never work in such a supportive environment with colleagues dedicated to helping me hone my skills. Nor one with Crock Pot Fridays.

For being such a small paper, I’ve had a tremendous amount of latitude to pursue the stories that intrigued me these last 20 months. I covered a range of beats — primarily the Bristol area, agriculture, energy and Middlebury College — and did my best to immerse myself in them.

Angelo even allowed me to bum around with Vermont’s congressional delegation in Washington for three days in 2014, where I covered the passage of the Farm Bill and penned a 3,400-word profile of Sen. Patrick Leahy (the latter of which won a New England Newspaper and Press Association award).

I am also thankful for the opportunity to report on the Vermont Gas pipeline projects, which affect everyone in this county in some way. Between my colleague John Flowers and me, the Independent published more than 100 articles on the topic in the past two years, and I see it as one of our best services to the community.

I’ve had the chance to cover so many different stories, many exciting and some tragic, but some of my favorite that come to mind are reporting on the plight of migrant dairy workers, the concerns of landowners along the pipeline route and a bizarre case of vandalism to a 9/11 memorial at Middlebury College.

I’ve gotten to meet so many of the good people across the county, but specifically in my coverage areas of Bristol, New Haven, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. Thank you for letting me into your homes, sharing your stories, usually returning my phone calls, and seldom cursing when you did.

As I’ve followed a series of contentious issues in the five-town area — namely the campaign for a new Bristol firehouse, the attempts to renovate Mount Abraham Union High School and the struggle to pass school budgets across the ANeSU — I’m reminded of something that’s unique to small towns. No matter what position residents take, they care about their communities, their schools and their right to decide what happens within them. Surely, rancor over a contentious issue is better than no discussion at all.

I’ve been impressed with the civic engagement in each of the towns in which I’ve written stories, and I hope that the work of myself and the other reporters at the Independent has encouraged people to become more engaged in their communities.

Twenty months ago, when I penned my first clippings, I wrote about the difficulty of starting a career in journalism. I was thankful then as I am now to have a job doing what I want to do, and I have the same cautious sense of optimism in the industry I did in 2013.

The Independent is a treasured institution and a pillar of the community it serves, and every day I spent in this newsroom reinforced in me the value of good journalism. I’m indebted to Angelo and John McCright for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this family, and nurturing me as they have many accomplished reporters who have sat at my desk.

The field of journalism is still changing rapidly and its future remains unpredictable. That doesn’t worry me in the least. This will be my third job since graduating from UVM in 2012, but each move has been a step forward. I may yet be chewed up and spit out by the beast, but I will make the best of every day preceding that one.

Thank you — readers, friends and colleagues — for your support. See ya round.

Until then,

Zach

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