It’s been a banner week for VTDigger.org. Our fledgling media operation has completed the merger with the Vermont Journalism Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing in-depth reporting on Vermont issues; we secured office space in Montpelier; and we are in the final development phase for our redesign of VTD.
On Monday, the Vermont Journalism Trust (VTD’s umbrella organization) received notice that the Internal Revenue Service had granted the Trust’s request for 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code, which means donations to our effort are eligible for a tax deduction under the Trust.
Until now, VTD had operated under the 501(c)(3) of the Online Journalism Project based in New Haven, Conn. We owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Bass, the executive director of OJP. Without his belief in the VTD project, we couldn’t have embarked on this journalistic venture.
With its 501(c)(3) in hand, the Vermont Journalism Trust hopes to generate $188,000 in revenues this year to support three full-time VTD employees and a large stable of freelance reporters. We’ve met half of our fund-raising goal so far, and on Feb. 1, the Trust hired two full-time paid staffers, me, and Josh Larkin, director of design and technology.
News production is a team effort. An individual writer gets a byline and can seem like a star on the home page for a little while, but there is a great deal more work that goes into what you see on the screen – and much of it isn’t related to the editorial side of the operation. Every newsroom depends on a business office to generate the necessary revenues to pay for those bylines.
Unlike larger operations, we don’t have administrative assistants, advertising sales reps, grant writers, marketing personnel or development officers. We rely on our most dedicated volunteers, the members of the Trust, to help us with these duties.
In just four months, the Trust has transformed VTD into a viable news organization. Henry Chauncey has created the structure for our day-to-day operations. Bill Schubart has led the fund-raising charge and secured the financial footing necessary for VTD to professionalize its operations. Fran Stoddard, Doug Clifton and Steve Terry have worked hard to find funding. Don Kreis spent many hours perfecting the Trust’s bylaws and successful 501(c)(3) application. Cyndy Bittinger and Allen Gilbert have brought their invaluable insights to policy discussions. Nick Monsarrat is the editor’s editor – he shapes my less-than-perfect copy and offers much-needed advice. Con Hogan and Bill Porter have been stalwart supporters who were among the first VTD boosters. Lastly, a special thanks to Kate Robinson who understood the VTD vision long before it became a reality.
I also want to give a shout out to Peter Dannenberg, an avid reader, who faithfully lets us know about errant apostrophes, dashes and commas, misspellings, incorrect factoids and the like. Peter never misses a typo, and I’m sure I’ll hear from him shortly — regarding this post.
We sure wouldn’t have gotten very far without the financial backing we have received from readers and supporting organizations. So far, about 100 readers have generously supported us. We have also received grants from The Vermont Community Foundation, the High Meadows Fund, The Permanent Fund, the Harris and Frances Block Foundation, the Haymarket People’s Fund and J-Lab (Knight Foundation). In addition, businesses and nonprofits have generously sponsored advertising on the VTD website. We have received ad sponsorships from Cabot Creamery, Champlain College, the University of Vermont, CCTV, the Committee on Temporary Shelter, the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Vermont, the Vermont-ACLU, Energize Vermont and Capital Connections.
We are grateful to the individuals and organizations that have made VTD possible.
We still have an audacious fund-raising goal to meet of $90,000 this year in order to realize the full reporting potential of VTD through 2011, so any help you can give us would be much appreciated.
If you would like to make a contribution, send a check made out to the Vermont Journalism Trust to Henry Chauncey, Treasurer, 42 Hawthorn Dr., Shelburne VT 05482. We also offer Paypal for your convenience, though the company takes a 3 percent cut from donations, so checks are preferable.
If you would like an advertising kit and a rate sheet, contact me at [email protected] or 802-441-1016 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 802-441-1016 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Digger’s new digs
On Tuesday, VTD opened its first office space in Montpelier, located above the Langdon Street Café. Up to now, I’ve been logging in long days at the Statehouse, then writing into the wee hours. Josh, too, has been burning the midnight oil posting dig-deeper boxes, photos, video and stories.
The new office space will enable us to steal away to post more timely reports during the daylight hours (and get some much needed nighttime rest). Josh and I enjoy spending time in the Statehouse with our many sources, but we are delighted to have a place to retreat to when we need to process photos and video and write stories. That said we won’t be far away. If you need to be in touch with tips, comments or complaints, call my cell at 595-9159. Or, give Josh a ring at 595-1966.
Redesign in the offing
This week, Josh put the finishing touches on the VTD redesign. The layout includes changes to the navigation, more space for stories and advertising, a spot for video on the front page, a news aggregation section and an improved system for bringing comments to the front page. In short, it’s still flavored with elements of VTD’s old-fashioned styling, but the meat of the matter, the news presentation, is more up front and center. Our hope is that the new format will improve usability and make it easier for folks to keep up with our reporting and locate archived stories, series and source material. Josh is working through a new mobile interface for this iteration of VTD as well, allowing you iPhone, Blackberry and Droid users a more comfortable digging environment. I wish I could show it to you now because it’s really boss, but we’re not quite ready yet. We plan to launch the new VTD in a couple of weeks.