Waterbury Record - March 26, 2020

After 13 years of publication, this will be the last issue of the Waterbury Record.

The Vermont Community Newspaper Group, based in Stowe, Morrisville and South Burlington, is suspending publication of the weekly community newspaper.

“Clearly, this decision is precipitated by the coronavirus crisis, but it’s also about economics,” said publisher Greg Popa. “The Record has never been profitable, but we were in this for the long haul. We started publishing the paper in 2007 to fill a news desert in a community we felt was on the upswing.

“Sadly, that never translated into widespread advertising support essential to any newspaper’s survival, and the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated what we hoped would never happen, the suspension of operations in any of the communities we serve.”

The Waterbury Record was not new to central Vermont journalism. A weekly by that name was started in 1895, with Harry C. Whitehill as editor and manager. Whitehill later became the owner of the paper, and started WDEV radio.

In later years, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s parents published the newspaper until they founded Leahy Press in Montpelier in 1946.

The diminutive notice of the newspaper’s own demise a year later jockeyed for front-page space with weekly chronicling of town doings, newly married and newly departed on Oct. 16, 1947.

“Lack of help has been a major problem ever since The Record was taken over by the present management six years ago this week,” wrote Milton Sunderland, the editor. “It was our hope that the end of the war would end that difficulty, but such was not the case.”

This week, Popa wondered aloud: “Did we fail? Only the community can answer that question, but this suspension of operations is certainly no reflection on the many exceptional journalists who’ve worked at the Record over the past dozen years, covering countless school and municipal meetings, breaking news, school sports and people.”

Some of those journalists included photojournalist Gordon Miller, reporters Monica Mead, Kristen Fountain, Chris Preston, Nathan Burgess, Josh O’Gorman, Andrew Martin, Maddie Hughes and Mike Verillo, and Maria Archangelo, who became the retooled paper’s first editor and publisher in 2007.

Archangelo went on to become publisher of the company, which at the time also included the Stowe Reporter and two magazines.

It had long been a dream for Biddle Duke, former owner and publisher of the Stowe Reporter, to bring the Waterbury Record back to Waterbury.

“Launching a paper is a wonderful thing for a community,” Duke said in 2007. “The paper will be a dynamic work in progress, and that’s part of the thrill. If it’s working right, every week the pages will reflect the conversations, letters, thoughts, ideas and, yes, even complaints of the people who’ve taken the time to contribute to their paper. Because, in the end, weekly papers belong to their communities.”

While initial plans called for opening a small office in Waterbury, the economics just never materialized, Popa said.

Until this week, the Vermont Community Newspaper Group published six weeklies with a total circulation of 42,000.

The Waterbury Record, with a circulation of 4,500, published every Thursday and was mailed to every home and business in Waterbury, Waterbury Center and parts of Duxbury. It had an initial circulation of 4,000.

“Needless to say, the entire crew is really disappointed right now,” Popa said.

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