Home Commentary Opinion Nat Frothingham to Readers and Friends of The Bridge

Nat Frothingham to Readers and Friends of The Bridge


Dear Friend of The Bridge:

Please read what longtime friend of The Bridge, David Kelley has written here. In a compelling letter, David does two things. First, he kicks off our annual fall fundraising drive. And second, he describes changes to the media landscape that make a paper like The Bridge — if anything — indispensable to our lives and our future.

I won’t pull from David’s letter, but I will add this information. Kelley has had a 30-year friendship with the justly renowned singer-songwriter David Mallett. And Kelley is bringing Mallett to Montpelier to give a concert to benefit The Bridge on Saturday, December 9 at 7:30 pm at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier.

As part of our fall fundraising campaign, The Bridge will give two tickets to the David Mallett (December 9) concert to anyone who makes a contribution to The Bridge of $100 or more.

The David Mallett concert is a celebration. It celebrates the nation’s First Amendment, the right to free speech and expression. And at the beginning of December it celebrates the holiday season.

It also celebrates The Bridge, and in December, The Bridge marks its 24th anniversary.

Please make a contribution to The Bridge either by using a return envelope in this paper or by sending a contribution made payable to “The Bridge” at this address: The Bridge, P.O. Box 1143, Montpelier, VT 05601. You can also make a contribution electronically through our website: www.montpelierbridge.com

And if you want a ticket or tickets to the David Mallett concert please go online to www.montpelierbridge.com or dial this number: 802-249-8262.

On behalf of The Bridge let me thank David Kelley and David Mallett and by extension let me thank the many people whose contributions have kept The Bridge afloat for almost 24 years — our advertisers, our reader and friends, and now our not-for-profit board members, and, of course, the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where we have our offices.

Yours sincerely,

Nat Frothingham


David Kelley Kicks Off Fall 2017 Fundraising Campaign

A Bridge Over Troubled Times

Thomas Jefferson famously wrote “…were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” He added a less-often quoted caveat:  “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”  Jefferson would no doubt be saddened by the condition of the Fourth Estate in the digital age.  It does not bode well for government or our reading skills that countless newspapers all over the country are on life support.

The digital revolution is tearing through economic and political institutions like a hurricane. In a few short years Airbnb has added more than 3 million rooms to its inventory without buying a single brick.  It is worth more than every hotel company in the world except Marriott.  Without buying a single taxi cab, Uber has become the major cab service in 633 cities. Since Uber was started, the value of a taxi medallion in New York City has dropped from $1.3 million to $240 thousand.  Shopping malls that once threatened Main Street are now being laid to waste by Amazon.

The implications of this storm are even more profound for the framework of a free society.  Edward Snowden’s revelations a few years ago showed us that new digital technologies in the hands of government have left our right to be free from unreasonable searches anything but secure.  Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t know who is listening to her phone calls. And perhaps most troubling of all, these gale force winds of the digital revolution are wreaking havoc with the fabric of the First Amendment.

The hit-and-run gibberish of Twitter (perhaps the most aptly named company of the digital age—a “twit” being “a silly, annoying person; a fool”) has become a go-to source for up-to-the-minute “news.”  Major dailies such as the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are being shuttered, and countless other dailies have gone into bankruptcy.  To survive the storm, newspapers are frantically searching for a new business model. As the cycle accelerates and as blogs and social media become more ascendant, respected journalists such as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite are, more and more, relics of another age.

In the midst of this turmoil The Bridge has carried on.  It has been a forum for sharing our ideas and thrashing out our issues.  It has been the embodiment of what James Madison envisioned when he wrote the First Amendment.  With intelligence and civility, it has shed light on our schools, our young people, our finances, the environment, local leadership, our arts and culture, our food, our farms, our jobs, our economy, and our businesses.  It has kept us informed and involved.  While our national dialogue is flooded with twits and tweets, our local dialogue continues to make Montpelier, Barre and all of central Vermont a better, wiser place.

Despite putting almost every fact known to mankind at our fingertips, the digital storm has helped reduce the national dialogue to an embarrassing sandbox spat between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum.  On the Right, the Twitterer in Chief proclaims that the First Amendment shouldn’t apply to football players. On the Left, youthful college censors insist that campuses be “safe spaces” where any idea deemed repugnant must be suppressed. As the national dialogue spirals into fatuous “infotainment,” and “alternative facts,” our local dialogue, even when heated, has remained essentially respectful, constructive, and meaningful.  The Bridge has given all of us a platform to talk, to disagree, to share ideas and concerns, and to find a collective path forward.

I lived in Montana for awhile.  Out there people like to call Montana “the last, best place.”  Having lived there and in Vermont, I know they are wrong.  Montana is a good place.  But it isn’t the last, best place.  There is still one place better.  It isn’t perfect.  But it is very, very good.  It is good because we can still speak to each other thoughtfully about controversial issues and about how we hope to shape the future of our community and our state.  The Bridge is one of the big reasons we can do that.  And I think Jefferson would appreciate the fact that we all receive The Bridge and that most of us are still capable of reading it.

Let’s keep it going.

David Kelley, Montpelier