After closing down more than four years ago, the GLBT-themed Out in the Mountains newspaper is relaunching as a website, including news articles, columns, reviews and its popular statewide calendar and resource directory.
Out in the Mountains, the only newspaper devoted to covering Vermont's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, was shuttered in November 2006 after 21 years on the newsstands. The free paper was published monthly and distributed statewide. It included columns, comics, local and national news as well as a statewide calendar and a resource directory.
When Mountain Pride Media decided to shut down the paper in 2006, its editors noted that mainstream media outlets were covering many LGBTQ issues — stories they wouldn't likely have written when OITM founded in 1985.
Mountain Pride Media President Brian Cote told Seven Days in 2006 that many readers, especially younger ones, were turning to the Internet for news and not a monthly newspaper. At the time, OITM's website had an online archive, but it was slow to adopt new interactive features.
By contrast, the new OITM.org website offers links to follow the publication on Twitter and Facebook, and it's asking readers to post news and information in hopes of creating an intentional online information community.
"We believe that Vermonters will benefit from access to local news concerning the LGBTQ community as well as a Vermont perspective on national and international stories. In the past, OITM has been an invaluable resource to people coming out, finding resources for our community, and finding community in a rural state where some may feel socially isolated," noted the site's editor in an unsigned editorial. "It is our hope that the new Out in the Mountains will be a community paper, where anyone who has some news will feel welcome to submit a story."
For now, that editor is John Fedor-Cunningham, a web designer who wrote a few articles for the print OITM under editor Chris Moes. Fedor-Cunningham hopes as more people contribute articles and information that a larger pool of site editors will take shape.
"As we have more volunteers, I hope that we will be able to have a proper journalistically-trained person assume the role," he told Seven Days.
Fedor-Cunningham designed the site to ensure Vermonters who do not have access to DSL or other broadband service can easily load and access the site. Ditto web-enabled cell phones.
"It is our goal that this be a community newspaper, where anyone who has some news will feel welcome to submit a story. We encourage people to volunteer. In fact, right now, everyone is volunteering and we are financially supporting the web hosting, bandwidth, etc. So far we have just four people contributing, but since we 'officially launched' the website a few days ago, we have had well over a hundred readers, with more every day, and we hope that some of the readers will become contributors — making it a true community newspaper," Fedor-Cunningham noted in an email to Seven Days.
The genesis for the new OITM site occurred after a friend of Fedor-Cunningham's asked where she could find a copy OITM to show a friend how was struggling with coming out and wanted information on social and news opportunities that might help. He said he couldn't think of any one-stop resource.
"I talked to a few other gay friends, and everyone missed the essential role that Out in the Mountains once played within the LGBTQ community in Vermont. And hence was born the idea to start a new LGBTQ newspaper in Vermont," he noted.