To report her 2019 cover story about milking cows on a Vermont dairy farm, Seven Days writer Chelsea Edgar immersed herself in the experience. She spent a week in muck boots and coveralls avoiding projectile poop, actually doing the job. There was no other way to fully understand, and explain, the daily labor of the state's migrant farmhands.
With similar motivations, Edgar spent dozens of hours over the past three weeks talking with Black Lives Matter protesters on the streets of Burlington and at Battery Park for this week's cover story. Her presence was not always well received by the participants occupying public property, despite her goal to share their aims with our readers — and the fact that Seven Days broke many of the stories about police misconduct that informed their demands.
Edgar endured insults and overcame resistance to report on the meaning and methods of the movement that claimed a partial victory on Monday night.
During the same time period, Burlington reporter Courtney Lamdin was up late covering the city council. Almost every week, she sits through hours of public comment, council bickering and the solitude of waiting out executive sessions to make sure she doesn't miss anything. Deputy news editor Sasha Goldstein stays up as long as it takes Lamdin to process and write up what happened. The time stamps on those wee-hour blog posts say it all. On Wednesday, September 9, Lamdin's story published at 1:53 a.m. On Tuesday, September 15, it was 1:21 a.m.
Three days later, at 7:45 p.m., Seven Days and the rest of the world heard about the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Paul Heintz immediately called Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for comment. Within three hours, Heintz had spoken to the senator and reported his reaction to Republicans' rush to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Time: 11:06 p.m.
Journalists at Seven Days regularly go out of their way — and occasionally stay up all night — to report the news, whether it's a breaking story about Burlington buying out a problem police officer to end a protest, or a complex account of how COVID-19 swept through a Vermont nursing home.
Last Friday, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia recognized some of those efforts. Competing with newspapers across the country for work published in 2019, Seven Days took first place in health care reporting for "Hooked," last year's series of stories in which writer Kate O'Neill explored Vermont's opioid crisis following the death of her sister. The judges wrote: "Passionate, intrepid reporting. The personal story of loss blends with the big opioid crisis picture in exactly the right ways."
They also liked "Worse for Care," a Seven Days collaboration with Vermont Public Radio that exposed the poor reporting of safety violations in state-regulated eldercare facilities. In addition to a series of articles, Seven Days created a user-friendly database that offers access to inspection reports and details their findings. The project, which earlier this year won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, took first place in AAN's innovation category.
Eva Sollberger's video series "Stuck in Vermont" and our guide for Burlington newcomers, What's Good, also took top honors in the competition. Seven Days placed second in investigative reporting, LGBT coverage and cartoon categories, for work by Heintz, Edgar and Tim Newcomb, respectively; Margot Harrison's "Quick Lit" book reviews took third in arts criticism.
It was a fitting way to wrap up our first quarter century in this crazy business that rarely affords a moment to look back.