165-year-old paper vows to publish despite office fire

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WOODSTOCK — A newspaper that has published every week since its founding in 1853 but recently lost its office in a fire has vowed it will publish this week's issue, too.

Vermont Standard president and owner Phil Camp Sr. said Wednesday that production was running one day behind normal schedule but he and his staff felt a duty to Woodstock, the community where they live and work.

"On my watch, we're always going to have a local newspaper," Camp said.

Early Monday morning, a fire tore through a building that housed the Standard's office, a restaurant and an apartment. Woodstock fire Chief David Green said the fire started in the restaurant and was being investigated as suspicious.

This isn't the first time the Standard, which usually publishes on Thursday, has been displaced. Its office was destroyed by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and it survived two fires and a flood earlier in its history.

Assistant editor Virginia Dean said that since 1853, the newspaper has always published.

"We've been through 165 years," Dean said. "We've been through Tropical Storm Irene and other fires, and we've never not published. We have that history as a foundation, as a motivator."

The newspaper's staff is working out of Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, a town of about 3,000 residents. Firefighters salvaged the newspaper's computers, and the library's executive director, Amanda Merk, said its trustees are more than happy to provide the space.

Camp said Woodstock once had seven weekly newspapers but only the Standard remains.

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Camp first began working for the Standard in 1952, while still in high school. His grandfather owned a funeral home in the same building as the Standard, and after telling its editor the high school sports coverage was lacking, he became the first sports editor.

After a career in the ski industry, he bought the newspaper in 1980.

Camp said that the community has always been his biggest motivation in running the Standard, a sentiment echoed by his staff.

"The thing that community newspapers have going for them is that first word: community. This is truly the community's newspaper," editor Gareth Henderson said. "The community's a huge part of what we do, and they're a big part of why we're here."

In turn, the Woodstock community has supported the newspaper. After tropical storm Irene, Camp said, he received a check for $3,000 from a local businessman who said Camp could eventually repay him with advertising space.

Since the fire, Camp has received emails from 75 people asking how they could help. Other newspapers in New England have asked whether they could lend him their staff or office space. And community members have dropped off food for the staff.

Jeffrey Kahn, who owns a gift shop in Woodstock and chairs the Board of Village Trustees, is an ardent supporter of the newspaper.

"Sometimes I put some ads in not expecting it to increase business so much as to support the Vermont Standard," Kahn said.

Camp expressed his disappointment that most of the physical record of the newspaper's history was lost in the fire, but he and his staff were motivated to carry on the tradition by publishing on Friday.


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