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Backstory 2017: What Seven Days Reporters Didn't Tell You the First Time


Published December 27, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 27, 2017 at 10:03 a.m.

Katie Jickling on the set of "Escape at Dannemora" - COURTESY OF ZACH HIRSCH
  • Courtesy of Zach Hirsch
  • Katie Jickling on the set of "Escape at Dannemora"

"There's always more to a story than a body can see from the fence line," observed writer Barbara Kingsolver. That's what motivated Mark Davis to venture out onto a frozen lake last winter to interview a park ranger about his role in a treacherous — and, ultimately, unsuccessful — ice rescue.

Seven Days reporters go to great lengths — sometimes literally — to find the news in Vermont and, on occasion, across the lake in the Adirondacks. Those occupational hazards rarely make it into the published article, but once a year members of the news team share their best backstories.

Some recalled the physical discomfort of "being there" — Katie Jickling spent a night curled up in her car to be on time for a 5 a.m. film shoot. Others expanded on intriguing interactions with sources. Paul Heintz interviewed a man he's 99 percent sure was George Clooney.

Journalists are instructed to keep themselves out of the drama they document, but exercising that restraint can be challenging, whether the reporter is hanging out with wine-swilling legislators or in the viewing line at a wake. It's impossible not to be moved by the stories of loss and struggle that Vermonters share with us.

Ideally, recounting them makes a difference. Two days after Alicia Freese detailed how incarcerated opiate addicts were being denied treatment in Vermont prisons, the state Department of Corrections changed its policy.

Successes like hers are what drive the Seven Days news team to brave the deerflies, pore through the legislative fine print and dine at the Salvation Army.

In an era when journalists are increasingly under attack, these backstories reveal something about how reporters do their jobs — what motivates them; the effort they put into obtaining and verifying information; and the ways in which they are constantly learning.