Editorial: A challenge you’ll likely fail

Here’s a challenge in which many of you won’t succeed: In today’s issue of the Addison Independent, we challenge you to get to know your community thoroughly through the window offered in these pages. Sounds simple, right?
But today we offer 106 pages, all for a buck; less than a penny a page. Considering the extraordinary work that goes into assigning, editing and writing those stories, taking the photos, selling and designing the ads, designing the pages, printing it and then distributing it to our 20,000-plus readers — as well as by mail to locations as distant as Florida, California and Alaska — that’s a helluva bargain. But that’s not the point.
Rather, the point is what the stories on these pages tell you about the place you live. The challenge, specifically, is as follows:
• Read the main news stories on the first three pages andthose stories that apply to your district town (Bristol, Brandon, Middlebury and Vergennes), and at least one story on every news page of A and B section (just 26 pages);
• Read (if you don’t already) the police logs, at least one sports story (even if you don’t know anyone in school any more) and pore over the community calendar of events, reading or skimming every item. You’ll be amazed at how much is going on right in your backyard.
• Then read the lead feature story in our 16-page Arts + Leisure section, also read the gallery section, the movie review by Joan Ellis (she frequently offers astute observations, rather than the shorthand ratings of one to four stars), the centerfold feature and check out the real estate ads to see what’s for moving in that marketplace.
• On Page 4A (you’re here) read an excellent piece by Eric Davis (bottom center) and each of the letters, then on Page 5A, read this week’s column by Middlebury College Professor Emeritus Victor Nuovo on Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism (his 17th in a series on the liberalism vs. conservatism and the two-party system), and today’s installment of Ways of Seeing. Admittedly, this reading on Page 4-5 is extra credit as it doesn’t necessarily teach you about your community, but if you read these pages and columns consistently, they will hopefully open your mind to new ideas, new ways of thinking and you’ll gain understanding of our county, state and each other.
We know that’s asking a lot. And you haven’t yet started the 64-page Summer Guide that features hundreds of events, recreational activities and interesting profiles of the people and places who make it so much fun to live, work and play in Addison County. But because you’re already overloaded with things to read in this issue, the challenge in the Summer Guide is to pick five stories to read, pore over the calendar of events, and check out the advertisements that feature places to go, restaurants to enjoy, and interesting, fun and thoughtful things to do.
If you accept the challenge, start reading Page 1A. If you’re waffling and not sure you’re ready to learn that much about the people and places around you (ignorance is bliss, right?), here’s the shorthand version of a tiny bit of what you would have learned:
• Our lead Page 1A story is an update, via a panel discussion in Bristol, on how the war on opioids is going, which is better than you might have feared. It’s still a deadly problem for far too many, but those involved are optimistic that they’re starting to get a handle on the crisis.
• In Vergennes, we profile Sheila Soule, the newly hired superintendent of the Addison Northwest School District. She traces her interest in education management back to her first job teaching in a multi-grade elementary classroom in the small Vermont town of Fayston. It’s an interesting profile that explores the experiences that have framed her vision for the district. It’s a story district residents will want to read.
• Reporter John Flowers writes a fond retirement story of George Kulhowvick, who is stepping down as a teacher at Middlebury Union Middle School after 47 years. His story is but one of almost 20 retiring teachers (all named) in area schools that we could have profiled, only you wouldn’t have time to read them all, nor, honestly, would we have time to write them. Mr. Kulhowvick’s story, then, serves as a tribute to area teachers who have given so much to so many students throughout the years.
• Also on the front page, we catch up with what’s going on with the fourth annual Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, set for Aug. 23-26. They’ve added a fifth movie venue, they have broken their record for film submissions (475 films from 37 countries) and the celebrity talent they’re bringing to town is as exciting as it is fantastic. Read the story to find out why the husband-wife team who won a 2017 Academy Award for “La La Land” consider the festival important enough to be guest speakers, as well as nationally acclaimed documentarian Steve James.
• To stir things up, we profile a series of seven running races — from the 888K Infinitus (550 miles over 10 days) down to a relatively sane 8-miler on June 1   — held at Blueberry Hill in Goshen. Hundreds are attending, but of the nearly two dozen who signed up for the 888K, most aren’t the super athletes you might think they would be. On the contrary, most are, in one runner’s words, “just ordinary people who want to accomplish extraordinary things.” Read why they do it, and the camaraderie they find.
• Front page photos lead you to stories on Middlebury College’s graduation, and shots from Memorial Day parades.
• On Page 2A, you’ll read a state report about the Legislature passing a bill to ban organized coyote hunts (an issue we have covered extensively in the past few years), and be captivated by photos of the upcoming Middlebury Opera Company’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
• On Page 3A, Middlebury residents will discover the police department is looking at adding more space to its facility for storage in the hopes of preventing, according to Chief Tom Hanley, “missiles going off all over the place” if something ever exploded in the current offices.
• Elsewhere there a dozens of photos of the Memorial Day Parades, a story featuring the construction of a $900,000 project at Helen Porter Rehabilitation and Nursing center to provide a state-of-the-art post-acute care unit and a new end-of-life suite, and you would have learned that Paul Ralston, founder and CEO of Vermont Coffee Company and a former state representative of Middlebury, is considering entering the race for state senator representing Addison County as an Independent.
But that’s just what’s found on seven pages. There’s 99 more to go.
The challenge is tough. Like the Infinitus, it’s a test of endurance and focus, but also of desire and passion. The question is this: Are we passionate enough to read the county newspaper cover-to-cover, to learn about our neighbors and friends, to explore and understand the breadth and depth of our community? Most of us are not. We say we don’t have the time, and, myself included, we often don’t.
But we challenge you this week, if not every week, to try.
Just once.
What do you get if you do? Well, I could go hook-line-and-sinker with this challenge and offer a prize — a free six-month subscription and a 10-pound bag of freshly roasted Vermont Coffee (you’ll need it to read this cover-to-cover) to anyone who successfully answers a quiz of 10 questions about the stories in this issue, but when we tried that in-house, not even John McCright, our editor, got them all right. So let’s just keep it as a challenge for fun and know that if you do succeed, you’ll have the immense satisfaction of knowing your community and county that much better, which is the real prize this newspaper offers every week of the year.

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