The Vermont Community Newspaper Group is the new name of the local company that owns this newspaper and five other weeklies.

The six are in two regions of Vermont — the Stowe Reporter, Waterbury Record and the News & Citizen of Morrisville, communities that line up along Route 100 in north-central Vermont, and The Other Paper of South Burlington, the Shelburne News and The Citizen of Charlotte and Hinesburg, covering communities near Burlington.

The Stowe Reporter, founded in 1958, launched the Waterbury Record in 2007, acquired the News & Citizen in 2015, and added the three newspapers in the Burlington area in the last two years.

Why the new name?

“After buying The Other Paper of South Burlington, it became clear that we needed a new brand,” said Greg Popa, the publisher of all six newspapers. Calling the three south-of-Burlington weeklies something like “the Champlain Valley Group of the Stowe Reporter” would have been awkward and confusing, he said.

“As the Vermont Community Newspaper Group, we can each hold on to our unique identities but also capitalize on the power of this group of six great community newspapers,” Popa said.

“Our name reflects what our hard-working teams of journalists, graphic artists, salespeople, support staff and contributors do every week of the year: provide topnotch journalism to the readers and communities we serve and effective marketing opportunities for businesses throughout those communities and beyond,” Popa said.

The company’s latest expansion came about this way. The Stowe, Waterbury and Morrisville newspapers are all part of the Burlington Area Newspaper Group, a network that makes it easy to buy advertising in any paper in the group.

When several newspapers in the network came up for sale, “we thought it wise to meld them into our company,” Popa said — “stronger in numbers, protect our market share and be better able to leverage what we do ― to keep people educated about what’s going on in their communities. So much media today fractures people or funnels them into tiny silos or a narrow shared interest. Community newspapers bring people together.”

‘Hyper-local news’

In 2007, the 4,500-circulation Stowe Reporter launched the Waterbury Record, and in 2015 added the News & Citizen. In 2017, the Shelburne News and The Citizen added a combined circulation of 9,500, and in 2018 The Other Paper added 10,700. So, circulation increased from 4,500 to 43,000 in just over a decade.

The company also publishes two award-winning magazines: the twice-yearly Stowe Guide & Magazine, and the annual Stowe/Green Mountain Weddings.

“We now employ about 30 people and reach homeowners and businesses in nearly 20 distinct communities, providing hyper-local news that no other media can provide,” Popa said.

Popa has held about every job at the community journalism level, from paperboy to publisher, “so I understand the business inside and out. It connects me to our employees in a special way.”

“I also love the kind of journalism we practice ― hockey matches and school issues and paving projects. Who else is doing that? I’m a firm believer in content; the way newspapers get in trouble is by always cutting the talent.”

Popa earned a communications degree from the University of Akron, worked at a small summer tabloid in Bar Harbor, Maine, joined the Stowe Reporter in 1986 as a photographer, moved into reporting and then became the managing editor.

He left the newspaper to run a communications business, but has been editor of the award-winning Stowe Guide & Magazine since 1991.

He came back to the Stowe Reporter to lead the sales department and became publisher in 2014 when Biddle Duke, who owned the Reporter for 17 years, sold the company to Robert Miller, a former top executive with Time Inc. and other publishing companies.

Hannah Marshall Normandeau and Lee Kahrs are the managing editors of the two newspaper clusters; Normandeau oversees news operations for the Stowe, Waterbury and Morrisville newspapers and the wedding magazine, and Kahrs does the same for The Other Paper of South Burlington, Shelburne News and The Citizen. Assisting them are Tom Kearney and Carole Vasta Folley. Katerina Hrdlicka leads the production and graphic-design team.

Judy Kearns, the former owner of The Other Paper, stayed on after the sale and is now advertising director for the office on Williston Road in South Burlington. Irene Nuzzo is advertising director in the Lamoille region.

Kearns said she is pleased with the way things have worked out.

“Coming together as the Vermont Community Newspaper Group supports our identity as newspapers that share a common purpose — to connect readers to what matters and to help foster a strong sense of community,” Kearns said. “As the primary source for news and information and a connection to local businesses, our individual focus on each town is unique and unrivaled — we were hyper-local before hyper-local was a thing!”

Reliable news and information is vitally important. Local advertising has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis but the Vermont Community Newspaper Group remains committed to its responsibility to serve its communities. Your communities. With some assistance from loyal readers, community organizations, foundations and other funders, we hope to keep reporters on the job keeping you informed. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our local journalism fund. Thank you for your support.

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