Home News and Features Stepping Down from The Bridge: Mike Dunphy Moves On

Stepping Down from The Bridge: Mike Dunphy Moves On

If there’s any shocking statistic in my life, it’s that since graduating from UVM in 1997 and leaving Vermont, I’ve moved 18 times, totaling 31 apartments, eight countries, and thousands of miles. On average, that means in 22 years, I’ve moved once every seven months.

I guess I took On the Road too seriously, especially when Kerouac writes, “I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” Or maybe it was my childhood adoration of The Littlest Hobo—Canada’s answer to Lassie—whose theme song entices with the lyrics: Every stop I make, I make a new friend / Can’t stay for long, Just turn around, and I’m gone again.

No doubt the real reason lies between the leather cushions of some yet unmet psychologist’s sofa.

Indeed, I had hoped my rambling ways had come to an end when I accepted the position of managing editor of The Bridge in November 2017 and flew direct from Prague to the corner of State and Main.

The first reason was the L5 vertebrae, which at 43 years old—like a canary in a coal mine—was shouting progressively louder to restrict sharp jerking movements and embrace more sedate middle-aged comfort, which comes with softer beds, fewer backpacks, and gel insoles.

Excess familiarity with life on the road was also diluting the zest; even a Baroque cathedral can only earn a “meh” after you’ve seen a thousand of them.

And then there were the mad ones—“mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time” in the words of Kerouac. Now in their early to mid-40s, they are primarily mad with raising children, keeping house, and increasing equity—not that there’s anything wrong with that (and plenty right about it).

But mainly there was the truth that of the places in the world I’ve called home—Tartu, Estonia; Koper, Slovenia; Istanbul, Turkey; Prague, Czech Republic—none has ever felt more home than Vermont. Born on the solstice in the dead of a 1970s Burlington winter afternoon, I absorbed its icy breath, maple blood, blue granite collar, and Ethan-Allen spirit.

The Bridge provided the means to return, and for two years, I’ve devoted my 9–5s, Monday–Fridays (and often more) to this wonderful, little, local Vermont newspaper—a Netflix show in waiting. Of all the lessons from this experience, the most important is what journalism should be in its purest form—news crafted with honest intention for the good of the community and not the clicks of social media and unique page views of Google Analytics.

In truth, running The Bridge has been a test of whether this kind of journalism can survive in a modern media landscape. While money initially seemed to me the primary make-or-break factor for keeping The Bridge alive and thriving, something else became even more important—engagement.

In other words, The Bridge only truly ceases to exist when the community, businesses, readers, and supporters no longer care about and support it.

That is the point I have been promoting through much of my tenure, encouraging the community to see local news as integral as clean water, electricity, and paved roads and to commit to supporting it. So long as The Bridge earns, maintains, and reciprocates this engagement, it can continue to help forge a strong community.

With that in mind, I thank all the people who have helped support both me and The Bridge during my time here. This begins with our hardworking and underpaid (or never paid) staff, freelancers, volunteers, and boards—both The Bridge and Friends of The Bridge. They are the ones shouldering the daily load.

The same gratitude goes out to the advertisers, donors, and subscribers. Their financial support keeps the presses rolling. And then there’s the community itself: anyone who reads The Bridge, stocks it in their business, sends us news tips, attends our events, and stops us on the street with words of support, which I have cherished.

Yet, here I am, stepping back on the road again, this time back to New York City, for round 2. The culprit: a full-time job co-running the official magazines for D.C., Chicago, and L.A. airports. In Godfather terms—it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Also in Godfather terms is the inevitability of return—that every time I try to get out, Vermont pulls me back in.

So I do not say goodbye to Vermont; only see you later.

Or as The Littlest Hobo taught me:

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll want to settle down

Until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on