Media Note: 1,100 'Super Readers' Donate to Seven Days | Off Message

Media Note: 1,100 'Super Readers' Donate to Seven Days


Seven Days' 2019 staff photo - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Seven Days' 2019 staff photo
As Seven Days grapples with a steep drop in advertising revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak, readers are stepping up to support the Burlington-based newspaper.

According to publisher and cofounder Paula Routly, more than 1,100 people have signed up as one-time or recurring donors. "We've been floored by the response," she said. "The donations that have poured in over the past few weeks have helped us to keep going — figuratively and literally."

In March 2018, Seven Days soft-launched its Super Readers program, which allows supporters to donate to the locally owned newspaper. In the program's first two years, roughly 250 people signed up to contribute. That number doubled in the early weeks of the outbreak. And in the week since Seven Days announced that it had laid off seven employees, another 600 enlisted as Super Readers.

Contributors have included Vermont journalists, such as Jane Lindholm, host of Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition"; Jeff Potter, editor of Windham County's The Commons; and Lola Duffort, education reporter for A number of Seven Days alumni have also signed up, including former political columnist Shay Totten, former staff writer Katie Flagg and former digital media manager Tyler Machado.

Other donors have included cartoonist and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic author Alison Bechdel; author Sue Halpern and her spouse, the writer and activist Bill McKibben; and Front Porch Forum founders Michael and Valerie Wood-Lewis.

A number of politicians have also contributed, including state legislators, administration officials and a county prosecutor. Governors past and present have signed up as Super Readers, too: former Democratic governor Madeleine Kunin and Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
In a video address shared on social media on Sunday, Scott encouraged Vermonters to support local journalism by buying newspapers and donating to media organizations.

"Like many in business, trusted news organizations and local papers are being hit hard by this pandemic," the governor said. "Even as they're working long hours to keep us informed, many talented reporters and journalists are being let go across Vermont and the entire country. Listen, there are times I don’t like the way a story comes out, but accountability and facts are so important, especially now."
Seven Days is hardly the only news outlet suffering from a decline in advertising revenue. Newspapers across the state have laid off or furloughed employees, reduced the frequency of their print editions or closed down altogether. On Monday, the online nonprofit announced a round of layoffs, and Gannett, which owns the Burlington Free Press, disclosed that it would furlough most of its workers for a week a month through June.

According to Routly, Seven Days' financial future remains uncertain, despite the influx of donations. "The challenge here is, we just don't know how long this slowdown is going to last," she said. "If we did, we could plan for it."

Nevertheless, Routly said, Super Readers are providing critical support. "We really need it now and it's really helping," she said.

Disclosure: Paul Heintz is an employee-owner of Seven Days.

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