Banner's sale to local investors well-received by community members

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BENNINGTON >> People are happy to hear their community newspaper is back under local control.

The new owners made a formal announcement at the Bennington Museum on Thursday afternoon to a gathering of local leaders and community members.

"I think it's fantastic," said Town Manager Stuart Hurd. "I've lived in Bennington for 44 years and I've read the Banner all that time. It's fantastic to have it, in a sense, come home."

Economic and Community Development Director Mike Harrington was similarly enthused. "My feelings on this are obviously, it's a great move, a great decision, and I love the fact that our local newspaper is going to be owned locally," he said.

He said the new owners, Birdland Acquisitions LLC, appear to be, "...a group of caring and committed individuals from the region that are interested in creating jobs, improving the quality of the paper, and improving the content in the paper."

Along with the Banner, Birdland Acquisitions LLC has also bought the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass., the Manchester Journal, and the Brattleboro Reformer.

Harrington said that having decisions made by locals will be a good thing.

Former Banner editor Tyler Resch, who still writes an occasional column for the paper, was pleased to hear the announcement.

"I think it means a lot. Local ownership is reversing the direction of newspapers nationally, and it's a good sign," he said. "I certainly hope the community responds in terms of readership and advertising."

Christopher Oldham, executive director for the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless, said he found it "refreshing" to see a newspaper return to local ownership. Oldham, a Bennington native, was the circulation sales and marketing manager New England Newspapers, Inc. before he took his new job last year.

"In my experience, I saw total departments outsourced and moved across country," he said. "Or when people left, positions weren't filled... It seemed like it was across the board."

Oldham, who asked during the press conference whether the new ownership planned to add staff and return outsourced jobs, said he was happy to get an affirmative answer from Publisher Ed Woods.

Oldham said an important thing is to honor the Banner's history as a small, locally owned, individualized newspaper that was unique to the community. Oldham said, while in his former position with the company, many people voiced that the Banner "looked like all of the others."

Oldham said that, while some members of the public may say they'll "believe it when they see it," he's "personally confident that change is coming and that we can return to the local community newspaper the Banner once was."

Jay Zwynenburg, owner of Jay's Art Shop and Frame Gallery, which advertises with the Banner, said, "I'm really glad it's locally owned and managed and bringing back jobs to the area. It will significantly change the [paper's] reputation. I think it's a strong step in the right direction."

Reporters Derek Carson, Edward Damon and Makalya McGeeney contributed to this story.


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