For 33 years, The Hinesburg Record has reported on town budget meetings, high school sports and all the other local news in the small Vermont town that goes uncovered by larger media outlets.
To say that the monthly online newspaper runs a lean operation is an understatement. The publication subsists on 50 paid subscriptions and the dedication of an all-volunteer staff of writers, editors, photographers, designers and ad representatives.
Recognizing the value of local news, Vermont Electric Cooperative recently donated $500 from its community fund to the University of Vermont’s Hinesburg Record Project. The gift helps support a professional editor to work with students to provide multimedia content for the newspaper.
“Newspapers are the anchors of small communities, and Hinesburg is the heart of our service territory. It’s critical for our communities to be informed,” said Tucker Williams, a utility designer at Vermont Electric Cooperative and one of three employees on the co-op’s community fund board.
The Hinesburg Record Project is part of UVM’s Community News Service, which pairs student reporters with professional editors from local media outlets. Students write stories, take photos, shoot videos and contribute to podcasts while learning about covering local and “hyper-local” news on deadline.
“Students get professional experience and more local news goes into the newspaper. It’s a win-win,” said Richard Watts, co-director of the Community News Service.
UVM created the Community News Service to counter the trend of “media deserts,” where newspapers in small communities have folded, said Watts, a VEC member. More than 1,300 small U.S. towns lack local news coverage, according to a late 2018 study by the University of North Carolina’s School of Media and Journalism.
Support from local stakeholders like VEC helps the Record “maintain its community focus and independence” and, ultimately, create a better product, said Kevin Lewis, the newspaper’s editor.
“The UVM journalism students bring fresh and relevant community news to the Record, which is vital to maintaining our readership.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.