EDITORIAL: Honoring Intern Lindsey Grutchfield and All Those Who Contributed to The Breeze

by Nat Frothingham

What about yesterday’s (August 17) three-hour “farewell lunch” for Lindsey Grutchfield with attendance from 20 to 30 people of all ages?

Lindsey was listed in our July 2015 issue as managing editor of The Breeze but that only partly describes her role. She was really the organizing genius and sparkplug of a lively offshoot of The Bridge, a paper “For Youth, By Youth” that we called The Breeze.

There was something about The Breeze that our readers liked. I know this from having people stop me in the street and from a range of affirmative remarks both in person, on the phone and through e-mail messages.

According to some of the prevailing folklore about middle, high school and college students today — they don’t read, can’t write, don’t show up on time and can be seen walking downtown, even crossing the street, totally captivated by their cell phones and smartphones. According to the sterotype, young people today are wholly self-absorbed, even self-indulgent. That wasn’t what we observed with the young people who worked on or contributed stories to The Breeze.

That wasn’t what we observed with the young people who worked on or contributed stories to The Breeze.

Lindsey started out at The Bridge at the beginning of the summer before her senior year at Montpelier High School. She wrote a number of well-received book reviews. She also took on a number of stories and from time to time and turned things around in a real hurry when we got in a jam.

She wrote a page one story about the popularity of digital devices and interviewed half a dozen or so of her fellow students about the digital revolution that is putting cell phones, smartphones and Kindles into the hands of students. Were her classmates still reading books? Was she reading books? She provided a range of answers to these questions in the piece she produced.

I had very little to do with The Breeze. I knew it was coming together and just before it sailed off to our printer I read through it and was delighted by it. The Breeze opened with a story from Julia Barstow, now a Bennington College senior. Julia had been an intern at The Bridge for six weeks from December through January 2014. Then as a Bennington College junior, she spent two months in journalism and New Media in Morocco. Julia’s powerful page one photograph eases us into her story that follows — a story with wonderful detail about a day-in-the-life of Fatina — clearly the mainstay of her rural family, a woman whose day is filled with such ordinary tasks as tending the animals, buying food, washing, cooking, baking, watching TV at noon, and providing for her family.

I don’t want to exaggerate the success of The Breeze — really a modest (12-page) experiment in producing a paper for youth, by youth. At the same time, I think we learned — or re-learned — some important lessons.

We learned again about the writing talent that surrounds us.

We learned again about the personal affirmation that takes place when writers write not only for themselves but share their writing broadly, by getting published. And even this is not a new discovery — it’s another lesson we learned again. Over a two to three-week period, Lindsey Grutchfield worked with a group of young people — middle and high school students, college students — to create a paper that attracted a wide audience of readers.

What this tells me again is this — when the demands are high — when the project rises or falls with real consequences for success or failure — young people often seize on the demands of what they are doing and produce astonishing results.

In a day or two, Lindsey is off to American University in Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in journalism and international studies. We wish her well.

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