On the beat in the Northshire

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Well, I've been running around these parts now for right at two months and I finally know where a few things are located and can put some names with the right faces.

I've had coffee in a half dozen places, met most of the state politicians and local board members, muffed my first budget story, attended a lighted tractor parade, and I've been lost in Sandgate.

Although it took two months, I was finally told I couldn't print something without that person's permission. That story is in today's paper.

I kind of feel like I belong now.

Starting a new job anywhere can be stressful but in the news business that's ramped up because you not only have to know who people are, you have to spell their names right.

I've found my beginning here at the Manchester Journal to be invigorating.

While everything in the Northshire is new to me, I feel like I've come home because I'm back doing what I was meant to do.

I have 22 years of journalism on my resume but I've spent the past four years outside of the business.

The news business is not an easy life, particularly with a family. Add in the fact that the newspaper industry has been circling the bowl for a decade or more and newsrooms have been thinned to a fraction of what they were as recently as the '90s.

Let's just say that when I walked out the door of the Rutland Herald with a cardboard box in 2014, I wasn't sorry to go.

I was hooked

And I never, ever, thought I'd be back in a newsroom with a scanner blaring, a phone ringing and my email box filling up. The negatives simply outweighed the reasons I had become a journalist in the first place.

So, why am I back doing what I said I've never do? Greg and Kevin.

New England Newspapers Inc., the group that owns the Manchester Journal, Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass., is running newspapers the right way. If you don't know the story behind this group, look it up. If you love newspapers and the news, these folks are community newspaper rock stars.

When they bought these papers and said they were going to turn them around, I — and thousands of other readers — said, "Yeah, right. We'll see."

It's what every company that buys a newspaper says. It rarely happens.

But this group was committed.

When I saw a help wanted ad for this job — editor of the Manchester Journal — while I told myself I wasn't interested, I couldn't help myself.

A quick Google search uncovered a couple of stories. They were doing what they said they were going to do.

I applied and, during the interview, I met Greg Sukiennik, managing editor for news in Vermont, and Kevin Moran, executive editor for NENI.

They weren't suits talking about focus groups, reader surveys and using marketing speak. They were journalists who talked about news coverage and putting out good newspapers. Heck, they didn't even wear suits.

It was like I had been transported back in time, and, in a way, I have been.

As a newsy, I was hooked.

NENI is in the newspaper business. They've rehired newsroom staff — invested in experienced people and given them the tools to be successful.

I'm surrounded by people who are passionate about their communities and making sure they produce great newspapers. The reporters work hard, the editors have experience, the entire organization is focused on putting out great newspapers.

It's working

Don't believe me?

Look at today's front page and read about NENI's Vermont papers that all just won awards at the Vermont Press Association event.

The Banner and Reformer swept the top two spots as the best daily newspapers in the state.

The Journal is the second best nondaily newspaper in the state among 19 papers. We have our sights set on the top spot.

Awards are nice. They look good on the wall and they're something of a pat on the back for the long meetings, coffee-fueled nights, and frantic deadline push to get a paper on the press.

But, you — the readers — are the real judges of this contest. You'll tell us whether we've earned the general excellence award or not when you pick up a copy of the Journal every Friday.

If you don't think we've earned your award, call me and tell me why.

Just please don't do it on Wednesday when I'm trying to get the next week's paper out.

On the Beat

This will be a regular column that runs irregularly. It might be in the paper every week for a month, then not make another appearance for a few weeks.

This is where I'll add context to an issue or share more of a story that didn't make the paper. Sometimes, it might be a snippet of something I found humorous or enlighting.

So check back each week and in the meantime, I'll see you on the beat.

Darren Marcy is the editor of the Manchester Journal. He can be reached by email at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.

TALK TO US

If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.



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