Guilford Gazette reborn
GUILFORD -- After The Guilford Gazette published what might have been its last issue in 2013, town librarian Cathi Wilken heard a common refrain.
"People would come into the library and say, ‘What are we going to do without our Gazette?'" Wilken recalled.
The key part of that question might be the words "our Gazette." With that sense of community ownership in mind, a group of volunteers has revived the newspaper and has plans to publish a second issue next month.
In an age of online communication, they believe there still is a place for a self-sustaining, small-town publication that includes contributions from young and old alike.
"It feels like a very positive adventure," Wilken said.
The Gazette started in the mid-1990s as "a service-learning project to help kids know the community," said Susan Bonthron, who taught writing at Guilford Central School at the time and was involved in launching the publication.
The paper also met a need for greater communication within the community -- a need that had been identified via a survey conducted by middle-school students.
What began as an after-school project eventually was fully integrated into the middle school's curriculum, with eighth-graders learning both the editorial and business aspects of producing a newspaper three times each school year.
But in 2013, after much research and debate, a majority of Town Meeting voters decided to tuition Guilford's seventh- and eighth-graders to Brattleboro Area Middle School. While the transition has gotten positive reviews, The Guilford Gazette was a casualty of the Guilford Middle School's closure.
There was talk of generating the paper at BAMS, but that idea didn't take hold. And when Wilken called an initial meeting in September at Guilford's library, only she and Guilford resident Lisa Ford attended.
A subsequent meeting at Guilford Country Store was more successful, however, and the Guilford Gazette was reborn as a volunteer-run program of the library.
Volunteers bought software and used the paper's existing template. They also credit Guilford Central School Principal John Gagnon with providing a big boost by securing leftover funds from the old Gazette so that the new Gazette could get off the ground.
"It was just kind of brainstorming at the beginning, because we didn't know where the money was going to come from," said Michelle Frehsee, another member of the newspaper's new staff.
Months of meetings and regular e-mail correspondence produced Volume 20, Issue No. 1 of The Guilford Gazette, dated February 2014 and mailed to every Guilford household. The 20-page publication included both "A Glimpse of the Past" -- the headline over a front-page article about the town's history -- and a celebration of the paper's rejuvenation titled "The Gazette Lives On."
There was an assortment of articles about current town business, including efforts to combat invasive species and last year's Vermont Council on Rural Development community-visit program. There also was community and arts-related news as well as poetry and drawing.
And the Gazette staff made sure to include a variety of Town Meeting information.
"It had been a tradition to have a Town Meeting issue every year since the beginning of the Gazette, because that was an essential thing for people to know about -- who was running, what the issues were," Bonthron said.
There was another important component -- 34 advertisements, signaling a willingness in the business community to support the new Gazette.
"When the first issue was a success, we said, ‘OK, we're going to do four issues a year -- February, May, August and November,'" said Carol Levin, who has been coordinating the paper's advertising.
Guilford students remain a part of the Gazette, with contributions in the first issue and planned submissions for future issues. The paper's organizers also are asking for anyone who is interested in writing an article, promoting an event, advertising or subscribing to contact Wilken at 802-257-4603 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering and submitting articles," Ford said.
At a recent meeting at Guilford Country Store, the paper's volunteers pointed to a block of text on the first issue's back page when asked about the paper's mission: "We hope that the Gazette provides a way for people in the community to communicate about local interests and goings on."
"That's our mission statement," Bonthron said, "and it hasn't changed in 20 years."'
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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