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Survey Says: Keep It Local

Local newspapers throughout the United States and much of the world have experienced evaporation of the traditional, advertising-based business model that sustained the industry for 200 years. Likewise, The Bridge has faced that challenge even before the economic shutdown brought by COVID-19.

During March and April, The Bridge conducted an online survey of our readers to update our editorial direction in light of community interests and expectations of the paper.
With 212 completed responses, along with 82 individual comments, it is notable that all but one responded to every question. The following are some of the findings.


On weighted average, the top interests of these readers are:
• Local government news
• Community planning and development
• Heard on the Street
• Profiles of local businesses
• Local and regional arts news
• Calendar

Demographics in brief:

• 70 percent of the respondents are Montpelier residents
• 70 percent of the respondents are age 55 or older
• 62.74 percent of the respondents are female
• 91 percent of the respondents have college or higher degrees


A sampling of the many thoughtful comments:

I definitely like the online features of The Bridge, and like the local focus of stories and issues that the paper has addressed. Keep up the great work you all are doing.

I’m a reader, so welcome in-depth pieces. That said, tighter editing for brevity would help on many articles.

For years I have urged The Bridge to cover some of the many nonprofits in this area. So many residents are employed by these organizations, yet for-profit business gets all the coverage. Please include nonprofits when thinking about business coverage. Would also like more about our local reps in the State House during the session. What have they voted on and how. This would help when elections roll around.

keep it really local. Other papers do Burlington and outlying areas. This should focus on our own community.

More investigative reports. Take an edgier approach to local news reporting, less fluff that is what the World is known for.

I feel that The Bridge has a substantial opportunity to increase/maintain readership by strengthening their online and social media presence. There is a gap of local Montpelier-centric news in real time that I would like to see filled by The Bridge.

Given the local nature of readership, The Bridge would do well to really focus on the local issues. In recent months, there have been more general stories that have nothing to do specifically with the Montpelier region (i.e., Wildlife trapping). They’d be what we called “filler” copy that could appear in any newspaper anywhere. The strength of the local paper comes with covering the most local news. There are many strong stories that could be reported out of City Hall that we never hear about. That said, I appreciate The Bridge and I’m glad it’s still around. Thank you.
You are doing a great job! I look forward to more of the same. To save money, please stop mailing the paper to households and invest in your content and structure.

More hard news, please. And all local news. I need not read anything—advice columns, gardening features, etc.—that I can easily find elsewhere. The Bridge should cover news we can’t find elsewhere: local news.

With the Times-Argus covering less and less Montpelier news, The Bridge should step up its coverage of city boards and news. I know it is a tough job, but there is a big gaping hole here that you could fill.

I appreciate the investigate stories that take on controversial topics. Props to Mara Brooks!

The Bridge has always seemed to me to be in the pockets of the Montpelier political establishment. Like let’s just make each other feel good and pay no attention to what’s going on behind the scenes. Bill Frazier anybody? I also don’t like sourcing news through FPF. The Times Argus was once a great paper…VT Digger is doing some good reporting. But The Bridge is somewhere between the Weekly World and the current Times Argus. The reason The Bridge has survived this long is because of deep pocket donors. Please do better if you want to be taken seriously. Thanks.

Providing the latest updates of businesses, organizations, and people around town in short summaries is most helpful. The Bridge provides a great public service in that regard. Your special topical, seasonal issues of The Bridge are also very helpful. Sometimes I find the articles a little long to get through, though. Maybe use more sub headers? Thank you!

Great to get you online when we are in Arizona in the winter.

J. Gregory Gerdel is president of The Bridge Board of Directors.