Clippings by Zach Despart: Thoughts on joining the Addy Indy
I’m the new reporter here at the Independent. I’ll be covering Bristol, Lincoln, Starksboro, Monkton, New Haven and Middlebury College. Plus, if you’ve got an agriculture story, I’m your man. I’ve written some stories already, but this is my first Clippings, so do forgive me if it is terrible.
I am an upstate New York native, though I come to the Independent from the faraway land of Chittenden County. I lived in Burlington four years, as a student at the University of Vermont and then a director of the morning news broadcasts at WCAX-TV.
After 18 months in television, I was ready to move on. I had always seen myself in print, ever since I interned at the Burlington Free Press and was the opinion pages editor for the Vermont Cynic, UVM’s student paper. Plus, getting to work at 4 a.m. for a 5 o’clock broadcast was, by that point, fraying my sanity.
After a long vacation out West, and a longer drive from New Mexico to New Hampshire, I was ready for my next assignment.
Ultimately I decided to take a job I was offered at the Independent. I was impressed by the quality and diversity of the content such a small newsroom was churning out.
What sold me on coming here is that the Independent is a true community newspaper. All the content is local — no national briefs, no syndicated columnists, very few wire stories. It’s owned locally, not by some national publisher with a board of directors.
Instead of shunning the Digital Revolution, the Independent has embraced it, with a robust website that has won awards from the New England Newspaper & Press Association and Vermont Press Association. (I also help manage the site, so if you have any suggestions, please send them along!)
I am admittedly old-fashioned when it comes to print journalism. This isn’t to say I’m not online-savvy — online journalism is incredibly important and presents many new opportunities, especially in regard to multimedia content. But there’s nothing more satisfying than reading a well-written, well-produced newspaper, and being able to hold that sucker in your hand.
It is a challenging time to be starting a career in journalism, and a lot of friends I went to school with are struggling to break in. The landscape of the industry is always changing, but over the last decade, these changes have been bad — as advertising revenues precipitously decline, newspapers across the country have been shrinking, and in some cases, dying. The Independent hasn’t been immune to these challenges, but has weathered the storm better than a lot of other newspapers in Vermont. There are a lot of reasons for this, and I think they’re of interest to the reader.
The Independent has a stronger relationship with its readers than any other publication I’ve worked at. Maybe it is because the two dozen towns in our area rely on the paper for news, or the of the quality of the journalism, or, most likely, a combination of the two. Readers are invested in the stories because, in essence, the readers are the stories. The Independent is an institution of Addison County, and one that readers trust. They’ve stuck with the paper while other publications in the state have seen their circulations plummet. In my short time here, I’ve seen that the editorial staff take that trust seriously.
I am a print journalist, and I have a job. Fewer and fewer of us get to say that these days, and I consider myself fortunate. I hope to add to the excellence the Independent has been recognized for time and time again. I look forward to meeting many of you in the course of my work. If you have any story ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out. My phone number is 388-4944, or you can reach me at [email protected].
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