Burlington Free Press, R.I.P.

There will be election news tonight, but first the latest on the Gannett rag formerly known as the Burlington Free Press.

According to Seven Days, and confirmed by the Facebook feeds of the two reporters involved, the Burlington Free Press has decided it’s no longer interested in being a real newspaper.  

Nancy Remsen and Terri Hallenbeck, who make up the Burlington Free Press two-person Statehouse bureau, are leaving the paper, according to sources close to the situation. The circumstances surrounding the departures are not entirely clear, nor is their timing. Both reporters filed stories in Tuesday’s Free Press and would normally helm the paper’s election night coverage.

Nancy Remsen posts:

Tomorrow will end 40 years of reporting for daily newspapers in Maine and Vermont. It has been a great run that is ending a little earlier than I wanted — but so be it. Ready for a new chapter. Any suggestions?

And from Terri Hallenbeck:

Today, I am covering my last election for the Burlington Free Press.

Later this week, for the first time since 1986, I will no longer be employed at a daily newspaper. I can assure you there is nothing easy about this for me.

This was not just a job for me, but a lifestyle. Being a journalist is as much a part of me as my red hair and freckles. It is where I met my husband. It is a profession I have been unable to shake despite the bad hours, relatively low pay and obvious signs in recent years of the industry’s decline.

This chapter of it, at least, is over though. I have opted against staying at the Burlington Free Press.Some of you may have heard that the Free Press and all Gannett newspapers rewrote all newsroom job descriptions and required employees to apply for the new jobs, which focus on pursuing the most popular stories as measured by website clicks.

That no longer seems to include many of the stories I’ve had the pleasure of covering the last 10 years as a Statehouse/political reporter at the Free Press.  

It breaks my journalistic heart, but I can no longer pretend it’s not happening.

It has been a great privilege for me to have a front-row seat to Vermont’s unfolding history. I’m thankful for all the readers who let my words share their breakfast table. I’m grateful to all the people who trusted me with their stories. I know there were times I disappointed you. There were times I disappointed me too, but I never took this special job for granted.

There is significant irony in the fact that my departure comes during election week. You might think stories about elections, candidates and issues are important, but those stories typically attract far fewer web hits than stories about the latest crime, caper or car crash.  Newspapers are now armed with data that make this crystal clear.

As some of you know, my departure from the Free Press is not the only one this week or this year. This newspaper, like many, has bid premature goodbyes to all too many good people. The Internet has not only turned news stories into click bait, it has led people to believe they can obtain their news free of charge. If we believe that, we will get the world we are asking for; one that is less well-informed, less open to hearing new ideas from new angles.

My soon-to-be-former colleagues, including my husband, will continue to try to do good work as they strive to make sense of their new world order. I wish them nothing but the best.

I leave the Free Press without knowing my next step. That is unsettling, even scary.

It’s time to take the next step, though.  It’s time to see life from another angle.

It now appears that this was foreordained by last month’s announcement that the Free Press was going to throw everybody overboard and let them all try to swim for the lifeboats.

Especially when you read Hallenbeck’s comments about giving up serious journalism for clickbait it’s going to be pretty hard to take the local Gannett franchise seriously.

Or, for that matter, to keep subscribing.

One thought on “Burlington Free Press, R.I.P.

  1. Well, I can’t say it comes as any surprise at this point, but it does make you wonder what Gannett’s end game will look like.

    Are they just neutering the paper so it can be managed as a tame turtle along the lines of U.S.A. Today, or are they intending to take it to the ground as a write- off?  

    It appears that they have little real interest in the future of print or digital journalism…at least not in the usual sense.

    The sixty-four thousand dollar question is whether any publisher will be bold enough to step into the void and give us a brand new Vermont daily.  

    There sure will be plenty of talent available to fill the pages, and there must be a funding model that could make it work.

    Paging Anne Galloway!

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