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OP-ED: A Picture of Hope

Jake Brown and Nat Frothingham in 2008.
Photo by John Walters

By Jake Brown

A couple of weeks ago, a group of 60 or so people who’ve been associated with The Bridge since its founding a quarter of a century ago gathered at Vermont College of Fine Arts to have their picture taken. The gathering was unpretentious, heartwarming, and delivered, to me at least, a strong shot of hope and optimism.

We spent less than an hour together, but the social gathering/smile-for-the-camera moment was full of plenty of geniality. Importantly, I also felt an undercurrent of deep resolve. People are proud to have been involved in the paper. And they still believe in it, maybe more than ever.

This part, really, did not surprise me. I was surprised by other things, though. There was a diversity of people— ages, interests, backgrounds, perspectives. Also, the event drove home for me (in a way I’d not realized until then) how many different caretakers the paper has had over the years. Many of these people had never met. Some of the founders, for example, had never met those who carried the paper through the 9/11 attacks, or the move to a “for-profit” model, or the 2008 recession, or the shot at going weekly, much less through the appointment of today’s Board of Directors and the new fundraising arm of the paper, Friends of The Bridge.

The reverse was also true—many of the newer Bridge people needed introductions to founders. (“Hey, current editor-in-chief Mike Dunphy, meet Bernie Folta, the editor of the very first issue in 1993,” which, by the way, was laid out with paper on boards, then driven to the printer in a car.)

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Before we knew it, photographer John Lazenby set the flash, climbed a step ladder, and began to record the moment. We laughed, we smiled, we fooled around with funny gestures for the camera.

Key founder and long-time editor of the paper Nat Frothingham offered brief words of recognition and thanks, and it was a wrap. After all, at The Bridge, as at any newspaper, there is always another deadline looming, more work for these committed individuals to do. It’s grounded, important, and humble work, but it’s work. Oh, boy, don’t we know it after 25 years.

Jake Brown was one of the early participants in the development of The Bridge and served as its managing editor for several years. He currently serves on The Bridge Board of Directors.