When news editor Andy Bromage told his boss at Seven Days that he was leaving the paper in July, she immediately turned to Valley News top editor Jeff Good as a replacement.
Seven Days publisher and co-editor Paula Routly worked on Good for about a month. He said no.
Then Routly launched a national search for someone to lead the news division of the Burlington news, arts and entertainment weekly. In the midst of that process Good had a change of heart, and Seven Days got its man.Good, who won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing at The St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times), spent the past 13 years at the Lebanon, N.H.-based Valley News, serving as capital bureau chief, news editor, managing editor and editor. He will remain at the Valley News through Oct. 30 to help in the search for his replacement.
Routly said the hiring will take Seven Days’ news effort to “the next level.”
“We’re finding that people are looking to us for local news, and in order to do that we needed someone to focus entirely on news content on all platforms,” said Routly, who’s been acting as news editor since Bromage left. “What I like about Jeff is he has a magazine writer’s sensibilities but has worked at daily newspapers for decades. That (magazine-style writing) is what we do. But we are also exploring more of a daily presence.”
Good said he likes his reporters to employ “old-fashioned shoe leather.”
“It’s about getting out the door and doing stories that give a sense of place,” Good said. “I don’t have a particular list of things I plan to do. First, I want to get acquainted with people who already do excellent work and help chart the way forward.”
At a time when many print news outlets are contracting, Seven Days is expanding. It now has four staff writers and will be adding at least one, and maybe two, reporters by year’s end, Routly said.
“We’d like to be the dominant print media in the market and we’ve got a shot at it,” she said. “We wanted someone who understands that and can lead us in the right direction.”
David Mindich, a professor of media studies at St. Michael’s College (and a board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust, the umbrella organization of VTDigger.org), said any increase in Vermont’s news-gathering staff is welcome.
“Daily newspapers around the country are contracting,” he said. “In Vermont, most papers have lost circulation, news staff, ad revenue and classifieds. It’s a real loss for democracy when you have fewer people reporting the news.”
Mindich said that despite growing staffs at news outlets such as Seven Days, VPR and VTDigger, there has been “a net loss over the past 10 years.”
“We are in a period of media restructuring,” he said. “We know that new ways will emerge.”
Routly said Seven Days is in a position to expand because business is good.
“Last year was our best year ever and we’re up over last year now,” she said.
Good, who graduated from St. Michael’s College and previously worked at The Burlington Free Press, said he’s looking forward to a return to Chittenden County.
“I’ve had a great run at the Valley News,” he said. “It’s been 13 years and it’s been a lot of fun. … I’ve had the good fortune to work with talented staff. When Paula reached out to me … the more I thought this could be a great opportunity to return to the state I love and grow in new direction.”
Follow Tom Brown on Twitter @TomBrownVTD
CORRECTION: Jeff Good rejected Paula Routly’s offer once, not twice, as originally reported.