Reformer announces news staff hires

Winters named news editor; Smallheer joins newsroom

Reformer Staff Report

BRATTLEBORO — Melanie Winters has been named news editor of the Brattleboro Reformer and veteran reporter Susan Smallheer has joined the staff as a reporter, as part of changes and additions designed to bolster the newspaper's reporting and service to the community.

Meanwhile, Bill LeConey, a veteran journalist with The Press of Atlantic City, has joined the Reformer staff as night editor.

"Two years ago, my colleagues and I promised the Brattleboro community that we would invest in the Reformer so that it could stand proudly along with its sister papers as part of the finest group of community newspapers in America," New England Newspapers President and Publisher Fredric D. Rutberg said. "Naming Melanie Winters news editor, adding Bill LeConey, a veteran reporter and editor, and returning Susan Smallheer to Windham County, our readers and advertisers can see that we are determined to deliver on that promise."

As news editor, Winters will lead the Reformer newsroom staff in its day-to-day news gathering operations.

A Marist College graduate, she previously worked as an editor at Soundings Publications LLC in Essex, Conn., and at the former Imprint Newspapers, formerly published in Bristol, Conn.

"After working at the night editor desk for the last seven years, I look forward to taking over the day shift and being able to interact with more people in the communities we cover," Winters said. "And with our recently expanded staff, I'm excited about providing even more local coverage for our readers."

Smallheer's byline should be familiar to Windham County readers, as she was Southern Vermont bureau chief of the Rutland Herald for more than 23 years, directing staff and coverage of Windham, Windsor and Bennington counties.

A graduate of Bellows Falls Union High School and Mount Holyoke College, she has won awards for her coverage of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, as well as awards for breaking news and in-depth profiles.

"The addition of a decorated and respected journalist such as Susan Smallheer is a significant step forward for the Reformer," Managing Editor Greg Sukiennik said. "Susan's reporting, writing and mentoring skills, along with the additions and changes we have made in our newsroom, will help us serve the community and strengthen our ability to tell stories that matter to our readers."

"I'm delighted to return to covering the issues and people of Windham County," said Smallheer, who stepped into her new job as news and investigations reporter at the Reformer on Monday. "I am impressed with the dedication to in-depth news coverage" at the Reformer.

LeConey, the night editor, joins the Reformer from the Atlantic City, N.J., region, where he was previously the sportswriter and editor for Current Newspapers of Atlantic County. He also worked for The Press of Atlantic City as a sportswriter from 1992-2004, covering the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers and NHL's Philadelphia Flyers as well as high school sports.

A frequent visitor to Vermont with relatives in the Brattleboro area, LeConey said he's looking forward to putting out the Reformer and getting acclimated to new surroundings.

"While I am new to the area as far as living and working in Vermont, I have many family ties and great vacation memories here," LeConey said. "I hope that my 'outsider's perspective' evolves into a deep commitment and knowledge of the community to best serve its needs, with help from the Reformer's already great staff."

LeConey joined the staff earlier this month.

Longtime day editor Bob Audette returned to a full-time reporting position on the Reformer staff several months ago.

"As day editor, Bob Audette worked tirelessly to assure the Reporter remained a tenacious and vigilant newspaper," Sukiennik said. "Bob's move to full-time reporting allows him to dedicate his full focus to reporting and writing. We are glad our readers will continue to benefit from his experience, skill and dedication to the news."

Harmony Birch, a reporter for the past year at the Reformer, has been promoted to full-time designer. She will work closely with Winters and LeConey in designing the Reformer's front and inside pages, and will continue to write for the newspaper.

"Harmony Birch has been a great addition to our newsroom, and we are pleased that she is taking on this new role," Sukiennik said. "Her passion for what we do shines through in her work and her efforts will play a significant role in our continued success."

Smallheer and LeConey join a dedicated staff of journalists, including reporter Chris Mays, photographer Kristopher Radder, arts editor Cicely Eastman and sports editor Shane Covey.

"Thanks to our existing dedicated, formidable and feisty news staff of Melanie Winter, Bob Audette, Chris Mays, Harmony Birch, Kris Radder, Cicely Eastman, Shane Covey, Greg Sukiennik and many correspondents, and to our new arrivals in Bill LeConey and Susan Smallheer, we will have an even more formidable and feisty news operation here in Brattleboro," said Reformer Executive Editor Kevin Moran. "Readers ought to be quite pleased."

On Thursday, June 21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Reformer news staff will be hosting a public meet-and-greet at the River Garden in downtown Brattleboro. Folks are invited to come mingle with the staff and enjoy a light luncheon.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

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