Remembrances of The Bridge

Image by Edith Zfass and Mat Doyle

In 25 years, a lot of editors, writers, photographers, graphic designers, salespeople, bookkeepers, and carriers have passed through the offices of The Bridge.

A few have survived to tell the tale and share them here.

Bridge Beginnings

By Bernie Folta—editor, first two issues

In the summer or early fall of 1993, at one of the public meetings to start a Montpelier community newspaper, a consensus emerged to call it “M” (Montpelier “M”). But not long afterward—and out of nowhere—some participants started calling it The Bridge. That name stuck, and as the masthead used to say for a number of years, “Connecting Our Community.”

I don’t remember exactly how I fell into becoming the editor of the first issue in December 1993—whether I tripped or was pushed. The core group included the founders, Nat Frothingham and Phil Dodd, as well as Jake Brown, who was heavily involved in the early days. Phil sold many of the ads, convincing businesses to sign on sight-unseen (and pay up). The printer could be paid (yay!). Nat wrote a piece for the front page informing the community about their new local newspaper.

Steve Larose, also in at the beginning, had a professional computerized graphic arts setup, and he handled the layout and pagination. I remember well the “production path.” The stories and photos came in, some on paper and some electronically, but as I recall, all on deadline. Then the word-processed, edited copy flowed from me, on the 3 1/2-inch square hard-shell diskettes of that era, over to copy editor Jim Wallace, and then on to Steve and over to the printer. The Bridge hit the street before Christmas; people’s dreams had become real.

The time came quickly to produce another issue, but nobody was stepping forward to be the editor, so I did it again. Thereafter, as intended and planned, The Bridge moved to having rotating editors from the community. There was plenty of literary and editorial capability in town to handle this. In at the beginning and in those early days, Nancy Schulz was a significant ad salesperson, helping our “pressling” survive; she also wrote.

However, after a few years, the original community-published model reached its limits of sustainability, and Nat and Jake took over, giving the paper a more solid continuity. And when Jake stepped out some years later, Nat Frothingham, as many people know, took over as publisher and editor and led The Bridge forward through thick and thin unto the present. I would say the term “labor of love” aptly applies.

On this 25th anniversary, then, congratulations! Congratulations to Nat, but also to everyone who has supported, contributed, and participated over the years and in any way helped The Bridge reach this milestone. And may it have 25 times 25 years more!

Giving Birth at The Bridge

By Edith Zfass—editor, 2000–2004

Nat and Jake were seeking an editor, someone hip, younger than 35, who hailed from Montpelier. Under 35? Moi? A remote chronological challenge. I didn’t fit the bill—not even close. So then what happened to their editorial criteria for the launch of Horizons? Out the window without even a parachute. I bludgeoned those two remarkable men into believing that doing without me was unthinkable. Miraculously, I got the job.

A tsunami of frenzied activity enveloped me 24/7. The clock ticked way too fast, as a whirlwind of writing, editing, activities, and decisions swirled around me. Finally, miraculously, the paper was put to bed; When the “Horizons” arts section was finally launched, I felt as though I had given birth. Eventually, the child became a mature adult and fixture in the life of the arts and culture of Montpelier and surrounding areas.

Gratefully during its tenure in The Bridge, Horizons broadened, enlightened, and enriched the horizons of my own life, as well. While Horizons was eventually earmarked to a special place in journalistic heaven, I am thankful, indeed, for the privilege of these many years of my warm and close connection with Nat, Jake, and The Bridge.

A Community Newspaper Lives On

By Phil Dodd—founding member, 1993–1995; Friends of The Bridge Advisory Board, 2015–2016; Bridge Community Media Board, 2017–present.

My first memory of The Bridge is meeting Nat Frothingham for a cup of coffee at the old Horn of the Moon restaurant to hatch a plan for a volunteer-driven, nonprofit community newspaper. We made some calls, put up some posters, and before long had gathered 10 or 15 people who stepped up to help launch our first issue in December 1993.

Twenty-five years later, after a long hiatus when I was not involved in the paper other than writing an occasional article, I am back serving on the board of Bridge Community Media, Inc., the nonprofit that took over ownership of the paper from Nat a year ago. I’m struck now by how much community support the paper had in the beginning and still has now. We have 10 volunteers on The Bridge board and four volunteers serving on the board of the Friends of the Bridge—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tasked with the crucial job of raising money to support the paper and its dedicated employees—and dozens of area residents who donate to the paper, write articles for free, or help out in other ways.

The Vermont College of Fine Arts generously provides us with office space and the City of Montpelier offers important support through the City Page it pays for. We are thankful for all of this and of course for our loyal readers. But I’d like to offer a special shout out to our advertisers, without whom we could never publish a free newspaper twice a month. Shop and buy services locally!

A Grand and Misbegotten Adventure

By John Walters—managing editor, Sept. 2007‒Nov. 2009

I was the managing editor of The Bridge for two exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, and inspiring years. In 2008, publisher Nat Frothingham decided to go from twice-monthly publication to weekly. The idea was to provide a more dependable platform for advertisers, and the increased ad sales would allow us to improve the paper.

There was an obvious need for a robust news source in Central Vermont. The Times Argus was steadily shrinking. Other media outlets covered the Statehouse but paid little or no attention to the community.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. We found ourselves trying to fill more than twice as many pages, but since revenue didn’t grow, we had no more resources than before. I found myself writing multiple stories every week, and my most reliable staff writer was Nat, which was a problem because every time he wrote a story, he was taking time away from the business side of the enterprise.

We produced a lot of great stories, but revenue didn’t follow suit. After roughly two years, with The Bridge heavily in debt, our weekly experiment ended, and I left the paper. But I took away far more good memories than bad, and I couldn’t be happier that The Bridge lives on in its new, nonprofit form.

A True Team Effort

by Carolyn Grodinsky—sales director, Jan. 2010–Sept. 2015

I never ever imagined I’d work in sales in my lifetime. Yet my five years at The Bridge taught me otherwise. The job connected me with businesses throughout Central Vermont, which has served me very well in the subsequent years. My years there helped me land my current job at Grow Compost, a position that ties my environmental background with selling an important green service.

Years before I sold ads for The Bridge, I used to occasionally write articles on topics that interested me. My first one (of importance—at least to me!) was where to find public bathrooms in Montpelier. Though I wrote it years ago, this story would likely still be useful in 2018. I loved working on the article and photo spread that Nat and I wrote about yard sales. It included a text box about an eccentric, colorful guy who collected suitcases and records, and we tallied all his finds over the course of a single day of yard-saling.

I lived almost across the street from the office and always had a least one dog working by my side, often foster dogs from the animal shelter. The shelter dogs got lots of attention, great socialization, helping them transition to their forever home.

During my time there, I worked with an ever-changing group of people who were incredibly bright, talented, and diverse. Everyone at The Bridge was integral to getting the paper out; it was a true team effort. Whether I was selling ads or contributing articles, working at The Bridge felt like family. In these tumultuous times, a good local newspaper is more important than ever!

It’s a Wonderful Bridge

By David Kelley—long-time contributor

I learned years ago that life’s real heroes aren’t in movies or football stadiums. They are usually right under our noses. They are in our schools and hospitals. They are in our fire departments and our court houses. And some of our greatest heroes are in our newspaper offices. They are the ones that keep government honest and us informed. Under siege from social media and politicians alike, their efforts are more heroic today than ever.

For 25 years I have watched local heroes devote endless energy, imagination, and intelligence to The Bridge and the community it serves. Frank Capra never directed a movie that was more inspiring than the story of The Bridge. I am grateful to have witnessed their endeavors, and I hope to be able to continue doing so for years to come.

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