Times Argus suspends publication of Waterbury Reader — Waterbury Roundabout

The weekly Waterbury Reader, published by the Times Argus and featuring articles and photos from the online news site Waterbury Roundabout, will end in two weeks with its September 23 edition.

Times Argus editor Steven Pappas announces the decision in a message to readers on the front page of this week’s Waterbury Reader print edition which will be mailed and on newsstands by the end of this week .

“It was a very difficult decision, especially since readers in the community continually thank us for sending the newspaper to their homes each week,” writes Pappas.

The free weekly mailed to households in the two postcodes serving Waterbury and sections of the adjacent communities of Duxbury, Moretown and Bolton is a collaborative effort which began in November 2020.

The newspaper is produced and distributed by the daily Times Argus serving Montpellier and Barre. This allowed articles from the online news site WaterburyRoundabout.org to be delivered to local readers in a print edition.

Waterbury Roundabout began in May 2020, several weeks after the weekly Waterbury Record ceased its 13 year publication here at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its owners, the Stowe-based Vermont Community News Group, said the paper was not financially viable even before the dramatic drop in advertising revenue triggered by the pandemic. The company went on to publish four other weeklies, including the Stowe Reporter.

The Times Argus decision comes six weeks after the Reader printed a joint message from the editors of Waterbury Reader and Waterbury Roundabout titled: “We are invested. Are you?” The post praised the collaboration on local news coverage and the desire to keep news coverage free with the caveat, “But we can’t achieve any of these goals without an investment of the community – and that means continued support from our readers and local businesses.”

Excerpt from the September 9 edition of the Waterbury Reader

Note to readers:

After nearly two years of trials, and unless there is a seismic shift in revenue generation, The Waterbury Reader – a product of The Times Argus – is suspending print publication on September 23, 2022. The Waterbury Roundabout , the independent online news organization that we have partnered with in this effort, will continue on waterburyroundabout.org.

This partnership has been so amazing and has provided us with great opportunities to keep our product in this important Vermont community. But without continued advertising support, it is impossible to cover our production, printing, trucking and postage costs.

It was a very difficult decision, especially since the readers of the community continually thank us for sending the newspaper to their homes each week. We hope, if you really appreciate the media coverage you get, that you will continue to support the work being done by Waterbury Roundabout Editor Lisa Scagliotti and her team.

Nobody wants to see a print publication get carried away, especially us. Thank you for your support and please don’t hesitate to contact me in the coming weeks if you have any ideas or suggestions for how we can continue to distribute the Waterbury Reader.

steven dads

Chief Editor

Waterbury Reader / The Times Argus

Given the climate for community newspapers in Vermont and across the country, we’re not surprised this is happening, but we’re disappointed.

The Roundabout website began as a class project at the University of Vermont in the spring of 2020 as part of the Community News Service Journalism Internship Program. He never considered creating a new printed newspaper.

Having the Times Argus approach us that year with the idea of ​​providing print content in a small free weekly publication they were launching seemed like a worthwhile experiment – they would get local stories to print, we would have a steady flow otherwise modest income, and the community would recover a physical newspaper.

We knew the numbers would be tough given the decision of the Waterbury Record publisher who launched this chain of events. But it was worth trying.

Unfortunately, the model did not get the financial backing it needed to be viable. We understand the business decision.

And after?

To a large extent, it depends on the community.

WaterburyRoundabout.org is not going anywhere – yet. Our operation is an independent Vermont non-profit corporation registered with the Vermont Secretary of State. Photographer Gordon Miller and I will continue to cover local news as well as contributions from some of our regular freelance journalists as funding permits. Our digital editor Julia Bailey-Wells, who created the website, continues to work on the site and the weekly email newsletter, This week in Waterbury. The UVM Internship Program will provide one or two interns this semester to gain first-hand experience reporting local news at no cost to us.

But all of this still relies on a significant number of volunteer hours. And without print publishing revenue, that becomes even more tenuous.

Like all newspapers around the world, we are experimenting with different business models to see what combination might work. Our other sources of income so far have been reader contributions and a paid weekly commercial sponsor on our email newsletter.

We are grateful to readers who sent us checks and signed up online to contribute with one-time and even monthly contributions. But this support is limited. While over 1,800 people receive our weekly email, for example, less than 200 readers have contributed this year and only 22 do so each month. (Big thanks to those 22!) There’s a lot of room for improvement there.

For those considering helping out, know that the Vermont Journalism Trust — the nonprofit parent of VtDigger — is our tax sponsor, making contributions potentially tax-deductible depending on how you do your taxes. This sponsorship can also help the roundabout to seek subsidies. In fact, just days after learning of the Times Argus decision last week, we learned that a grant application we made in July to the Vermont Community Foundation had been approved. We received a $3,000 Spark grant to use for business development. The timing couldn’t be better.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at changes to our website to potentially accommodate online sponsors/advertising. This may mean that you see fewer stories published and our newsletter may be shorter than usual as we focus a bit on the business side of things.

Ironically, the day before this news, we had decided to launch a Local Jobs page on our website to post job vacancies. We hope this will help collect ‘help wanted’ messages from local employers in a convenient place for job seekers.

what you can do

For now, if you are a reader and have not helped fund our work, consider contributing. (Even $5 a month would add up if a lot comes into play – do the math.)

If you are a business owner with vacancies, consider place a listing of local jobs ($50 to post for a month).

And, as we expand our website to accommodate paid sponsors/advertising, we hope local businesses and organizations will see it as a place to connect with the community to get their messages across. More on that as we find out.

Ultimately, whether Waterbury continues to have a local source for community news is up to everyone. If there is interest and financial support, it will take effect.

We don’t plan to stop trying until this truly local operation has given it a wholehearted try. We understand that current market conditions do not support a weekly printing journal and all the overhead that this entails. But what about a rambling website with a few dedicated professionals, talented local freelancers, and eager students?

Stay tuned.

Lisa Scagliotti is editor of Waterbury Roundabout.

Jacob L. Thornton