Home News and Features An Interview with the New Bridge Editor

An Interview with the New Bridge Editor

Cassandra Hemenway, The Bridge's new managing editor. Photo by Tom McKone.
Cassandra Hemenway, who took over as managing editor of The Bridge last month, is well known for her outreach and education work with the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District; however, she has a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and worked in journalism before her time with the solid waste district. She recently sat down with Tom McKone to talk about her background, her new role at The Bridge, and what she sees in the paper’s future.

Tom McKone: Cassandra, congratulations on your new position. How have the first few weeks gone?

Cassandra Hemenway: They’ve gone remarkably well. So many people have been supportive. Carla (Carla Occaso, the previous editor) laid out some documents that walked me through the process of getting the paper together. There have been writers, staff, and board members who are very actively involved with the paper. The whole team really helped me hit the ground running to get that first issue out. 

TM: You’re well-known in the community for your role in solid waste management, but most people don’t know about your journalism background. Why did you decide to move back into journalism, and why at The Bridge?

CH: I started out as a journalist because I’m a writer and it was my first love. I have a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Boston University; it’s the thing I was trained for, and I applied those skills to the outreach and education role at the solid waste district. A lot of that job involved writing, editing, social media, photography, and video. But always my first calling has been writing and community journalism. 

My first job was at the Hardwick Gazette, which is still dear to my heart as an iconic community newspaper. Later on, I did freelance work for various Vermont publications and some parenting magazines. Recently, when The Bridge happened to be looking for an editor, I happened to be thinking about going back to my roots. In 2011 and 2012, I wrote for The Bridge. I have a huge respect for it — staying in print at a time when a lot of other newspapers were folding. That they’ve entrusted me with their baby feels like an honor. The Bridge wouldn’t exist without the board members — who are very active — and all the people in the community who contribute and support it financially and with ads and articles. It’s pretty nice to be able to be a part of such an integral part of the community. 

TM: You’ve already talked about this a little bit, but you have a broad background in communications and journalism. What are some skills and experiences that you bring to this position?

CH: I started out my writing career in the literary journalism tradition, where I had more time to write stories. So I really honed my editing skills. A story would go through maybe 10 drafts before I would show it to anybody. You don’t have that kind of time, even with a newspaper that only publishes twice a month. The Hardwick Gazette was a crash course in civics, and over the last 10 years, being a staff member at a municipality, I got the inside view of how municipalities work. At the solid waste district I managed a lot of projects simultaneously. I led projects based on presenting to the community, writing and implementing grants, social media campaigns, ad campaigns, training and supervising staff. Those skills are applicable here because the editor role involves constantly juggling a lot of stories, ideas, and communications with people.

TM: The Bridge, of course, is very much community-based as you have shown in your answers, with both a traditional newspaper and an online presence. How do you view The Bridge’s role in our community?

CH: I see The Bridge’s role as reflecting the community. We have a lot of voices that are heard in The Bridge. One thing I’m excited about is keeping the voices we are already familiar with — the regular columnists and writers — and also bringing in some newer voices in our community. I see [The Bridge’s] role as also providing a neutral forum, where we report on what’s happening in city government, with the school board, with businesses. So the community has a format for information where they can perhaps have a role in their civic government. It helps people make informed decisions about things that directly affect their lives and their pocketbooks. 

We have strong coverage of the arts; we love to profile interesting people in the community; we cover people’s successes, the books they have published; their music projects. Celebrating members of our community is a huge role for The Bridge as well.

TM: As you mentioned, you worked as a reporter for The Bridge about 10 years ago. Do you have anything else to say about that?

CH: I had just moved to town. I had been living in Woodbury for a long time. We moved so our kids could go to school here. The first thing I did was contact The Bridge, because I wanted to keep writing. When you come to a new community and you start writing for the local paper, you immediately meet the movers and shakers. It was a way to instantly integrate into the community. 

TM: Online news and social media are more important than ever before. How has The Bridge responded to those changes, and how big a part of your job are the website and social media?

CH: The Bridge’s online presence is one of the things that’s going to keep it going into the future. It already has a well-developed website and well-developed social media presence, and those two things are very much a key role in my job. Any newspaper in this day and age would be remiss if it wasn’t offering its stories online, as well as in print. The community may see more of that.

TM: Is there anything else that I didn’t ask you about that you’d like to add or expand on?

CH: I look forward to broadening the voices we hear in The Bridge, finding some new writers from diverse backgrounds and connecting with youths. I feel The Bridge is on the cusp of an expansion or growth spurt. We’re working on getting federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in place, we have a board that’s very knowledgeable and active, and staff people in the office on a regular basis.

TM: Thanks for sitting down with me, and again, congratulations on your new position.

CH: Thank you.