Top 10 from 24 months of unique reporting in The Chester Telegraph

 

Flooding in the Mountain View neighborhood continues to vex homeowners.

Flooding in the Mountain View neighborhood continues to vex homeowners.

By Cynthia Prairie

On Jan. 16, 2014, The Chester Telegraph celebrates its second birthday. A few of our faithful readers have asked us to compile a list of the 10 top stories that we covered in 2013. We thought it was a great idea but, since we didn’t do it last year, we decided to include 2012 as well. Between each listing is a factoid about The Chester Telegraph.

These are all stories that you can’t find anywhere else — and definitely not with the depth, accuracy, clarity and the context that we bring to the table. While the list of 10 seems long, they are only a small portion of the hundreds of Telegraph-generated articles that we have run since launching the paper. (Any text in dark brown is clickable.)

What have we missed? What was your favorite? And as we go forward, what can we do better? Feel free to comment below or send us an email at info@chestertelegraph.org.

1.DOLLAR GENERAL: This has got to be the No. 1 story for both 2012 and 2013, and it looks like it will be at least on the list for 2014, since the appeal of the Act 250 Board approval has been with a judge from the Vermont Environmental Court since late September. In total, we’ve written 35 or so stories on the Dollar General proposal as it has made its way through the various town and state processes, including hiccups at the Development Review Board and appeals by opponents that included the environmental court returning the DRB’s OK back to the DRB for further explanation.

By the way, in the two polls that we have taken on the issue and in all the comments that we received both in the Comments sections, Letters to the Editor and on Facebook, the majority of those many vocal readers are against the proposal. In one, 112 people of 166 responding said they would never shop at the Dollar General if it were built. In an earlier poll, 39 of 51 respondents believe that a Dollar General is not good for the community. While the polls are not scientific, it is difficult to vote more than once.

  • The Chester Telegraph has become a go-to news source for small communities nationwide that are facing a proposal for a big box/small box store. We don’t spend a lot of time checking, but every so often we’ll notice an unusual spike in readers from a specific state and town accessing our Dollar General archives. A quick check and inevitably we can find local news stories about their situations.

2.MOUNTAIN VIEW FLOODING:  Whenever a community is under stress, the whole town should take note. Such is the case with the Mountain View community and three or four families who own homes there. Since Tropical Storm Irene hit in August of 2011, they have continually battled flooding problems. Karen Zuppinger and Cynthia Prairie wrote about their plight in October 2013. (If your community is faced with difficulty, drop us a line at info@chestertelegraph.org.)

  • Our readers like to learn more. Over the past two years, thousands of you have taken advantage of the click-ability of the links embedded in articles as well as the ads to find out more — about a business, product, event or subject. Keep reading, keep clicking!

3. BROOKS-LACKIE FIRE: On Oct. 2, 2012, we published an extensive story about the fire that destroyed the Brooks-Lackie House in the Stone Village.

Photographer Lew Watters was on the scene when the Brooks-Lackie House went up in flames.

Photographer Lew Watters was on the scene when the Brooks-Lackie House went up in flames.

Thanks to photographers Bill Revill, Lew Watters and Kaitlin O’Shea, the article that included childhood memories and historical background on the building was beautifully illustrated. It also went viral on Facebook, where it was read by more than 9,000 people in just a couple of days.

  • We began publishing the Chester Police Log in October 0f 2012. This monthly feature — we’ve run 14 thus far — quickly became one of the best-read features in The Telegraph. (We also understand it is the stuff of chats from diners to dinner parties.) Crime logs are standard fair for many newspapers and we’ve obviously filled a large gap in news coverage. It runs the first full week of every month.

4.WESTON PLAYHOUSE EXPANSION:  The Chester Telegraph focuses on Chester, but we include         coverage  of  areas of great interest to the wider community. This of course would include the Weston Playhouse, which holds regional and state-wide appeal. In 2013, we have been the first and only to report in any depth on the plans for its growth at Walker Farm.

  • The Chester Telegraph‘s Facebook following has grown considerably over the past two years. Today, we can boast 1,300+ fans. While most are from Chester, Springfield and Ludlow, Bellows Falls, Rutland, Londonderry and Weston readers make a respectable showing. (We also have many fans in New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut — and in 15 foreign countries.)

5.SOLAR FARMS: Private and public solar farms were big news in the area over the past year — both proposals within a stone’s throw of each other off Route 103 North. The private project went through fairly quickly. But the public-private project hit major snags along the way, many of them traceable to the Chester Select Board, which couldn’t seem to decide what was best for the town. It finally did agree — on Dec. 18, 2013 — to contract with Green Lantern Capital for the public-private effort.

  • Wednesdays tend to be the highest readership days. But there is never a day and rarely an hour within the 24 that someone, somewhere is not reading The Telegraph.

6.CHESTER ZONING REGS REWRITE: Land use issues tend to be some of the hottest issues around. So when the Chester Planning Commission began the process of rewriting the zoning regulations, which include lot size, noise limits and other new features, it was interesting to see the reactions from some corners. The regulations are still in the proposal stage, so you’ll be see more articles on that in 2014.

  • We’ve run more than 1,500 images in The Chester Telegraph, many of them photo packages — GMUHS graduations and proms; Overture to Christmas and the Senior Christmas Dinner; the Fall Festival on the Green; the rebuilding of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge and its rededication; the annual Shop Local Holiday Shopping Guide and so much more …

7.SUPERVISORY UNION MERGER:  In March 2012, Rebecca Salem wrote about the planned merger of two supervisory unions that affected 11 area schools, including Green Mountain High.  It was a complicated story, but one that we were willing to tackle to get the news out to our readers. Here’s the first one.  This year, the new union became Two Rivers, and moved into new digs in Ludlow. Thanks to the Internet and the ability to link, we also gave readers a virtual tour of the inside of the new offices, which many readers took advantage of. Also, in March of 2012, Salem wrote about the  $100,000 renovation to the  Green Mountain High School Library, an important asset to any school and a much-needed upgrade.

  • We send out a weekly newsletter to 400+ subscribers (subscription is free) in which we highlight the stories of the week. A signup form is in the far-right column.
Artist Jamie Townsend. Photo by Karen Zuppinger

Artist Jamie Townsend. Photo by Karen Zuppinger

8.PEOPLE, WE NEED PEOPLE: We’re lucky to live in communities with so many interesting and talented folks. Karen Zuppinger wrote a fascinating piece about outside-artist Jamie Townsend, whose works can be seen in Chester and Springfield among other places; Greg Hart profiled two amazing young athletes for us: race car driver Charlie Macko, who was 10 at the time; and Brianna Luman, a talented martial artist. Zuppinger also headed over to Keene, N.H., to listen to Chester’s Cheyenne Prescott sing her heart out for Keene Idol. She placed 2nd. Zuppinger also profiled Mary Bittner, who was in training for a half-marathon to raise funds to fight leukemia for her nephew. She ran that race this past fall.

Theater critic David Lampe-Wilson interviewed five young actors from Vermont who performed on stage at the Weston Playhouse this past summer. And Shawn Cunningham interviewed that wild and crazy Bryan Breadwig Ballinger, a successful artist who grew up in Chester and was raising funds through Kickstarter to publish a rather stinky scratch and sniff book. He was successful and the book is now out. Cunningham was also on the scene last May of a tragic farm accident that left Chester Police Det. Matt Wilson injured. His recovery took months but he’s back at work at both the Police and the Fire departments. Steve Seitz had written about Det. Wilson back in 2012 focusing on his work with child victims of sexual abuse.

  • 40 percent of our readers go to The Chester Telegraph directly, without following links from the newsletter, Facebook or search engines.

9.PARKS & RECREATION: Playgrounds have been an important topic this year, both in Chester and in Londonderry. Over some objections, the Pinnacle in Chester finally got a new toddler playset, and Pingree Park in Londonderry is well on the way to replacing its old set. And another story that you would have only read about in The Chester Telegraph was the one about renovations and clean up at the Williams River State Forest, making it more easily to access thanks to a new parking pad.

  • We believe our communities want and deserve a quality news outlet and therefore we continue to raise that journalism bar. It can be as simple as labeling all press releases as press releases so they cannot be confused with original reporting or noting that some might believe there is a conflict of interest between the reporter and the subject. Or it can be as complex as fully explaining a complicated subject, such as the supervisory union merger.

10.NO BUSINESS LIKE BUSINESS BUSINESS:  We’ve only written four or five stories on Jack’s Diner reconstruction — but then again, not much has been happening there. Owner Jacques Dodier still has a way to go to get all the proper permitting in place if he is to regain occupancy and yes he is allowed to continue building. But not all businesses have stagnated: Black River Produce has expanded into meat processing, which we wrote about in August of 2013. In June 2013, we wrote about Lisa Kaiman and a major shift in the name of her market and its mission. What was known as WAAWWE is now Jersey Girls Farm Cafe and Market. In April 2012, Kaiman and her veal were also featured in a story we wrote on a James Beard dinner. And just a year ago, we wrote about Sage Jewelry and the Polish Pottery Shop moving into larger digs together.

  • Almost 70 weekly Yankee Chef columns have run since we began publishing Jim Bailey’s column in September of 2012; and nine monthly and delightfully informative Good Reads columns have run since John Hoover began his column with his Misty Valley Books colleagues back in April 2013.
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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Michele says:

    Thanks for including Sage Jewelry and Polish Pottery in the top ten! Happy New year. Thank you for all the great work you do! Michele