Friday morning a discussion broke out among the panelists of the Slow Media workshop. On the panel was Matt DeRienzo of DigitalFirst Media, Frederic Noyes of Brattleboro Community TV, Steve West of WKVT 1490, Tim Johnson of WTSA Radio, Kevin O’Connor of the Rutland Herald, and Jeff Potter of the Brattleboro Commons. Bill Densmore of Journalism That Matters hosted the workshop.

Panelist Tim Johnson takes questions from the audience after the Slow Media roundtable discussion

The question posed to panelists was: how can local radio and television, non-profit news and online media coexist without stepping on each other’s toes? How can they assist and compliment each other so that they can survive?

“We need to talk about the ‘Friday Reformer’,” said Kevin O’Connor, referring to it as the “elephant in the room” as someone in the audience scoffed audibly. As an addendum O’Connor added, “the Reformer is great,” explaining that on any given day the paper has over a dozen stories that other newspapers don’t have.

According to Frederic Noyes, the Friday Reformer caters to soft news and press releases and is continually shrinking in size.

“What’s news and who’s defining it?” rebutted Steve West, remarking that news is determined by the general public.

One concern expressed was that of press releases appearing in newspapers “under the guise of news stories,” as Jeff Potter described it. The panelists agreed that press releases are a gray area. As something needs to pay the bills, it’s not always so clear who should be let in as a sponsor.

“We’re literally trying to stay afloat right now,” said O’Connor.

In response to concern about costs of news articles from an audience member, the panelists tossed around the phrase “pay wall.”

As Bill Densmore pointed out, checking out at a grocery store, for example, is not referred to as “going through a pay wall.” The term is a misnomer that is only used to describe paying for news and has the ability to turn people off.

As one summit attendee pointed out, there has been a push in recent years within the Brattleboro community to buy local produce. Perhaps local news should be treated the same way.

According to Jeff Potter, the Brattleboro Commons quotes Steve West’s talk show on WKVT with attributes. The panel seems to agree that it is important for all of these news facets to stay well-connected. An audience member said that he would be willing to pay for local news if the news organizations teamed up and provided a sort of “package deal,” where one general cost could provide individuals with access to all of the local papers.

This morning’s discussion could kick start an ongoing conversation between local news organizations and secure relationships.

“ Why don’t you all get together and have these conversations? Because it’s fun to watch all of you throw spaghetti against the wall,” said an audience member.

Rachael Roth