[Vermont, USA] Stop The Press!
north america / mexico |
the left |
Monday December 07, 2009 01:24 by Catamount Tavern News Service
Vermont’s Catamount Tavern News Closes its Doors
The Montpelier based Catamount Tavern News, Vermont’s only union affiliated newspaper, has decided to shutdown the presses
December 7th, 2009
Catamount Tavern News Closes its Doors
Catamount Tavern News Service, Dec 7th, 2009, Montpelier- The Montpelier based Catamount Tavern News, Vermont’s only union affiliated newspaper, has decided to shutdown the presses. The statewide seasonal newspaper, known as “The Voice of The Vermont Left,” has made the difficult decision to shut its doors, and make way for a new generation of ‘underground media.’ CT News, with a circulation of 1500, had a staff of 7.
Catamount Tavern News, founded over 7 years ago in August of 2002 by the new defunct Green Mountain Collective, is, perhaps, the longest running ‘underground newspaper’ in Vermont history. The publication saw its first print edition of 350 copies in the winter of 2003. The paper initially billed itself as an “anarchist publication”, and was the official Vermont newspaper of the Northeast Federation of Anarcho-Communists from 2003-2006. For a time, it was the only statewide newspaper in Vermont. However, over the years, the publication evolved into a broader platform for left wing social and political perspectives, be they anarchist, anti-war, socialist, Progressive Party, or counter culture in nature.
In its early days newspaper staff would print the paper themselves on photo copy machines, getting better deals then are advertized from ‘sympathetic” copy store wage workers (not owners) in Burlington and Montpelier. As their circulation grew to 1000, in 2006, the paper was printed in Montreal by an anarchist print collective. During this time CT News drivers would go up to Quebec and pick up half a dozen boxes of unfolded, unstapled papers, and then drive them back to Vermont. Then, in the winter, these boxes would be brought, by snowmobile, a mile up a mountain to an ‘off the grid’ log cabin for other staff members to fold, staple, and make pen and ink corrections where necessary. However, in the summer of 2008 stressful run-ins with border patrol agents, and a growing circulation, compelled the print organization to again be moved; this time to Teamsters affiliated First Step Print Shop, in Underhill, Vermont. It would remain here for the remainder of its existence.
In December of 2007 CT News, already organized as a worker-owned operation, made history by signing a contract with the Teamsters Local 1L making them the only union affiliated publication in the state. From that time on CT News expanded their distribution to 50 towns across the state, reaching a circulation of 1500 by 2009.
While the paper was read from Burlington to Bennington, and from Montpelier to the Northeast Kingdom, CT News found itself most popular in left leaning Brattleboro, where their distribution was done largely in taverns such as Kipling’s and the Weathervane (both on Elliot Street). On any given day it was not unusual to hear people, in between shots of whiskey and cheep beers, arguing about a story they read in Catamount Tavern News.
CT News often attracted some of Vermont’s top left leaning writers, thinkers, and organizers. Contributors have included agriculture organizer Brian Tokar [*CT News #17 & #18], Burlington economist Doug Hoffer [*CT News #21 & #22], anarchist writer Cindy Milstein [*CT News #20], as well as labor leaders Traven Leyshon (President if the Washington County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO) [*CT News #17, #18, #19 & #22] and James Haslam (Director of the Vermont Workers’ Center) [*CT News #1].
CT News was also known for its candid interviews with such persons as Progressive Anthony Pollina [*The Man Who Would Be King, CT News #18, Fall, 2007], and war resister/Iraq vet Drew Cameron [*Vermont War Vet Speaks, CT News #16, Spring 2007]. A more memorable of these interviews was with farm organizer (and now respected healthcare reform advocate) Peter Sterling, where he called Vermont Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr “a lackey for the corporate guys”, and charged that Governor Douglas’s agriculture policy to be “fucking bullshit.” (Crisis and Hope on The Farm, CT News #14, Summer, 2006]
From the years 2006 through 2008 the paper was the only in the state that could say they had a ‘Quebec Affairs Desk.’ In 2006 they opened a desk in Quebec City. Later that year they moved the desk to Montreal, where Mathieu Dube served as Quebec Affairs Editor. Hence they were able to deliver independent coverage of social struggles and politics from north of the boarder without having to rely on newswires.
In 2005, CT News reached notoriety with it’s on the ground coverage from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans during the Katrina disaster, and again, in 2006, with its coverage from rebel held territory in Chiapas, Mexico (coverage that was shared with the Vermont Guardian and was not available, with the exception of the AP feed, in any other Vermont publication).
International coverage aside, CT News’s bread and butter was covering local Vermont struggles; be they from workers, farmers, healthcare advocates, or the Abenaki. And for this, for their commitment to building a very different Vermont (one part libertarian, one part socialist, one part Green Mountain Boys), they were unrivaled in the local world of underground media.
“Over the years we have done a solid job of factually covering stories from the perspective of average working Vermonters. We have done so with the intention of furthering direct democratic participation in government, in building a stronger labor and farmer movement, and in securing better living standards for common people. Some have charged that this made our news coverage something less then objective. I would counter that the notion of objective journalism is nothing more than a myth. All media has a built in subjective slant, especially when it comes to political coverage. The basic decision of what stories will be covered, who will cover them, and who represents a credible source all contribute to this process. WCAX in Burlington clearly gives more air time to Republicans, and it would be foolish to think that the Gannett owned Burlington Free Press does not let their board of directors influence their reporting. The difference between the mainstream media and CT News was that we told you, right from the get go, on the second page, where we were coming from and what kind of world we like to see, while other media outlets keep their biases to themselves. And in this, one could make the case that we were the most honest news source in the state,” said former News Editor David Van Deusen.
Catamount Tavern News never claimed financial affluence. Some ads were paid for in barter (once CT News received 30 LBs of granola to get the staff through the winter). Others, for popular causes and events, were often run as a public service. In 2008 CT News discounted a full page ad to the Pollina campaign, charging them only $1. However, it was not due to finances that the paper closed down.
“The paper is [not] folding because of any of the usual reasons why papers end. I think it’s just run its course and that is that,” said former CT News Obituary Editor Xavier Massot.
News Editor, David Van Deusen said “After more than half a decade, we, the staff, decided to move on to other things. CT News comes from a long Vermont tradition of underground press; from the anarchist newspapers in Barre in the early 20th century, to the Free Vermont publications of the early 1970s. We now take our small place in this shadow history, and look forward to reading the underground newspapers of the future from whoever decides to take up the baton.”
CT News says that it remains a possibility that the organization will choose to act as an irregular and occasional independent news service, and may also decide to continue limited print operations such as pamphlets or books.