- Luke Awtry
We’ve seen other kinds of casualties, too, in our state. Tens of thousands of Vermont workers have been laid off from their jobs. Libraries, theaters, museums, community centers and places of worship have shut their doors. Iconic restaurants and local businesses have closed.
So far, that includes at least one local newspaper. On March 25, Paul Heintz reported on the demise of the Waterbury Record. He’s also covered layoffs at the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, the Valley News and Seven Days, as well as furloughs at the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. The Addison County Independent is now printing one issue a week instead of two. The Essex Reporter, Milton Independent and Colchester Sun are still publishing online but have ceased printing altogether.
A few readers have asked why Seven Days keeps printing and distributing the paper, when Gov. Phil Scott has issued an order closing all but essential businesses. Is journalism “essential”?
Gov. Scott believes it is, and so do we. So did our country’s founders, who protected freedom of the press in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, alongside the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
But, now that we can deliver the news online, is distributing a paper copy still necessary — or even wise in a pandemic?
We believe it’s both. Many of our readers, especially those with unreliable internet, depend on the paper as a primary news source. Others appreciate the variety and serendipity of a print product that reads like a magazine. People tell us they like being able to flip through the pages and see ads from local businesses, that they love doing the puzzles and reading the comics, that reading the paper gives them a sense of normalcy in these trying times.
Now that gathering together in groups is impossible, the paper functions as a community conduit — physical evidence of the place we share — that holds us together.
Fortunately, the virus doesn’t appear to live long on porous surfaces such as newsprint. There hasn’t been a single reported case of someone getting sick from a newspaper, magazine, letter or package delivery. Feeling extra cautious? Wash your hands after handling the paper. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this virus is thought to spread through person-to-person contact. That’s why Seven Days’ circulation drivers wear gloves when delivering the paper. They also practice social distancing. This helps keep them, and members of the public, safe. For an up-to-date list of drop-off spots, go to sevendaysvt.com/delivery.
Speaking of the paper, you’ll see more changes in this week’s issue. First, it’s smaller, at 64 pages; the number of ads we sell determines the size. The classifieds section — including the puzzles — has moved to the back. And the movie and art sections, like the calendar, are gone for now.
Also new: We now have 1,000-plus Super Readers supporting us financially. The donations that have poured in over the past few weeks have helped us to keep going — figuratively and literally. Those dollars will replace some of the advertising revenue that vanished overnight as a result of the coronavirus crisis. For almost 25 years, that revenue has been our primary source of income and the reason Seven Days is free. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has donated.
To become a Super Reader yourself, click here to “Give Monthly” or “Give Now," or contact us directly at [email protected].