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Seven Days Writers Reveal What it Took to Report the News in Year 2 of a Pandemic


Published December 29, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

Trump supporters marching to the U.S. Capitol on January 6 - © DREAMSTIME/BGROCKER
  • © Dreamstime/BGrocker
  • Trump supporters marching to the U.S. Capitol on January 6

My reporting career had barely started when — after a bitter-cold night covering a department store fire on Burlington's Church Street — a coworker grinned at me and said, "Remember, being a reporter is the most fun you can have with your clothes on."

He was right, I thought then and still believe now, 40 years later.

The thrill of the chase for the truth. The pleasure of a scoop. The satisfaction of serving as the public's eye on government, of revealing the missteps and questionable actions of public officials. And the unparalleled opportunity to be invited into people's lives, learn their stories and share them with the world.

Once a year, Seven Days invites readers into our world. The backstories our reporters tell in this issue — the tales of how they got the news — offer glimpses of how we go about our work. You'll learn how we were able to document monthslong wait times to see doctors at the University of Vermont Medical Center, how Burlington City Hall reporter Courtney Lamdin spotted the plagiarism in a well-paid consultant's report and how great stories emerged from reporter Anne Wallace Allen's personal quest to get a dateline from every town in Vermont.

You'll also learn that our work is not all fun, whether you are news reporter Derek Brouwer, shivering at 2 a.m. on a January night waiting to interview Vermonters returning from the January 6 chaos in Washington, D.C.; or food writer Jordan Barry, white-knuckling down the road over Lincoln Gap; or reporter Colin Flanders, spending empty hours waiting for F-35 fighter jets to pass overhead.

Reporters commit to fairness so that their stories stand above the fray in a bloodless way. But this year's backstories strike me as proof that journalists are anything but bloodless. Food writer Melissa Pasanen mourns the passing of a longtime source. A marathon Bible reading at a tiny church reminds Flanders of the importance of simple companionship. Lamdin goes to the Sears Lane homeless encampment in Burlington as a journalist and comes home with a new appreciation for her own privilege and the campers' plight. And Statehouse reporter Kevin McCallum learns the price to be paid for a story that offends gun owners as far away as Texas. (Jeers, obscenities and a tampon are involved.)

So please enjoy these stories of the work we did, the challenges we faced and the fun we had in 2021, with our clothes on.

(See links to all the stories in this series below.)

The original print version of this article was headlined "Backstories, Sidebars and Follow-Ups 2021"