Vermont Standard Rebuilds After Office Fire Thanks to Community Support

Firefighters carried out computers so the newsroom could continue working in the town library.

There’s a long withstanding tradition in Woodstock, Vt.: the local paper, the Vermont Standard, has never missed a week of publishing in its 165 years, even after two massive floods and three large fires.

The tradition continued this July when the Standard lost its newsroom in a fire. The paper was still able to get that week’s issue out, only half a day late and three days after the fire destroyed their office—all thanks to their community’s generosity and eagerness to help.

One of the largest fires in Woodstock’s history started early on July 16. A total of 17 fire departments responded to the scene to find that the building that contained the Standard, along with apartments and other businesses, up in flames. Immediately, residents asked publisher and owner Phil Camp how they could help, but the paper knew what to do next—just keep working.

The first issue after the fire thanked community members for their support.

“We made a promise to our community that regardless of floods or fires, we were going to continue reporting,” Camp said.

He added that being a dedicated journalist is hard work and requires risk. “It’s no longer a nine to five, five day work week, and it can be dangerous at times.”

During this time of need, businesses cooked food for them, colleagues offered support and the library donated space for the team to work.

“The library called when smoke and flames were still coming out of the building saying they were going to find space for our staff,” Camp said.

The staff of 12 worked out of the library for weeks before Camp secured a new home for them—the very building that housed the Standard when it was founded in 1853. Before the fire hit, the Standard was already gearing up for changes, which included a larger digital presence.

“Burned one week, and the next week, we put out our regular edition along with launching new services,” said Camp. “No moss growing under our feet.”

An investigation in August concluded that the fire was “purposefully set.”

But Camp said what’s really important is the community. The front page of the first edition after the blaze simply read “Thank you.”

“This is truly the community’s newspaper. They are a big part of why we’re here,” he said. “It’s especially important because big newspapers are downsizing, and little local newspapers that focus on communities and people are more essential than ever before.”

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Published: October 4, 2018

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