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June 19, 2009

Kudos for 'Hometown Newspaper'

A story turned up on Alternet that made us feel good here at Seven Days--Ben Dangl, a freelancer who is also the editor of Burlington-based international-news online mag Toward Freedom, wrote "Next on the Endangered Species List: Your Hometown Newspaper." Dangl notes that while he was reporting from Latin America in recent months, the 7D website was his "portal to home." He adds that it "underscored the importance of local newspapers in providing a sense of community."

But then Dangl points out what we've all been hearing and reading, that local papers are disappearing. Dailies in major markets "have been folding at an alarming rate." The sea change in media is exacerbated by the crappy economy, but is not the sole cause of it. The industry is changing inexorably; none of us knows what lies ahead for newspapers, or any other traditional media outlets.

Here's the good part, though. Dangl says that while he was catching up on the state budget or reading a column by a local taxi driver ("Hackie"), he realized that Seven Days "had become like so many friends I ran into upon coming back to Burlington--something that helped define my place in the world ... This local paper was a part of the landscape."

And when he was done reading the paper, Dangl concludes, he took it outside to his garden and laid sheets of it between rows of vegetables. "A column on the Democrats' override of a veto by our Republican governor went next to the beans, face up," he says. "An update about a new Vermont law allowing residents to dry their laundry outside on a clothesline ... went along a row of carrots." I especially love this part: "I knew I was finally home after the paper put local news into my brain, and began collaborating with the dirt and the sun to put local food in my stomach."

Thanks, Ben. We hope, despite the trends, to be around for you for a good long time to come.

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