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The Way I See It: Our Contributors Reflect on The Bridge, Community, and This Column

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On the occasion of The Bridge’s 30th anniversary, we asked the volunteers who write for our The Way I See It column to reflect on The Bridge, the “TWISI” column, or our community. 

Roberta Harold

“Social capital” is value added to community life for which people pay, and contributors are paid little or nothing: pies baked for church suppers; the life-saving work of volunteer EMTs and fire departments; and the caregiving, cooking, and cleaning that keep families functioning. If you could put its monetary value on a balance sheet, it would likely swamp the value of things we measure in dollars and cents. 

 What makes Vermont, and Montpelier, such a treasure to live in is its wealth of social capital. The Bridge is one of the best examples. Started by a quixotic group of volunteers in an era when mainstream newspapers were dying off, this community resource keeps providing vital information and perspective that helps us all make better decisions about what matters to us and what we’re willing to pay real money for. That’s good for community, and even better for democracy.

Bernie Lambek

Mazel tov to The Bridge on its 30th birthday!

The Bridge is the collective voice of our community. But when I imagine community, I think first of food, and favored places to eat out, and my deep loyalties to them. I return again and again to Wilaiwan’s Kitchen, the tiny Thai lunch place on State Street, to Capitol Grounds Cafe across the street, and — stretching the bounds of my community beyond Montpelier’s border — to Red Hen Café in Middlesex.

Red Hen is my early morning biking destination, weather permitting, where I partake in a breakfast sandwich on Mad River Grain and a mug of coffee. At Capitol Grounds, where I go when I don’t bike to Red Hen (usually winter), it’s a late-morning sesame bagel with egg, cheddar, and pork sausage, and a mug of dark Senate Blend. Wilaiwan’s offers three spicy choices a day to its cult followers, changing it up every week, each one more delicious than the other.

They know me at these places. My community.

Richard Littauer

When I think about community, the origin of the word “forum” comes to mind. The fora in Greece and Rome were places for people — privileged, male, land-owning, racially homogenous, hyperlocal citizens — to come together to talk, to share, and to commune together. This continues today in the modern squares and piazzas of Italy, where the whole town meets together in public. But as the days get longer and the snow deepens, it occurs to me that Iceland, Sweden, and Labrador are not exactly known for their public spaces. I wonder: Where are our winter fora? The farmers market? Not on the Rialto Bridge downtown, surely. No. If anywhere, it’s here, in our local newspapers. Today, I’m grateful for the written word, which provides the place for us to join together, learn, and grow.

Tom McKone

If you search “newspapers with ‘Bridge’ in the name, you get a variety of results, ranging from other small-town community papers to Bridge Michigan — an online nonprofit newspaper with 100,000 email subscribers. A few colleges have student newspapers with the name, and Brooklyn, N.Y., has a newsletter focusing on local business. Knowledge Bridge isn’t a paper, but it is related — a “media development investment fund.” (Maybe they’d like to give us money.) Inmates at Connecticut prisons used to publish The Bridge, and in Memphis, Tenn., The Bridge is a monthly that focuses on homelessness. There’s actually a category, called “street newspapers,” that do that. Some of these papers piqued my interest, but I’m going to stick with The Bridge we’ve got! It can’t be beat!

Nancy Graff

Recently, my husband and son, both journalists, spoke at a forum in Burlington about the state of modern journalism and democracy. My son’s view was especially dire. He posited that neither journalism nor democracy is faring well at the moment, and both need to step up and be more rigorous. To wit, our duty, as citizens of the world today, is to speak clearly and courageously, to work hard, and to fight for the things we value. The Bridge is our opportunity to do this on a local level, to focus on the issues closest at hand, and to make critical connections between what needs to be done and what we can and should do to meet those needs. 

Anjali Budreski

Putting words to paper for my beloved local community feeds my literary soul. It has been both an honor and challenge writing for The Bridge. In my dream space, I sit at a small table in a worn attic, aglow with twinkle lights and taper candles, in the style of Jane Austen or Louisa May Alcott. I write late into the frosty winter night — candles burning down, fingers cramped and stained with ink, the world softly asleep. The reality might look more like a rushed hour at the computer — words flying across the glowing screen — stealing solitude so I can meet a deadline. Either way, it’s always with a smile behind my eyes and gratitude in my soul that I get to weave thoughtful words which speak of presence, place, and inner peace. 

Andrew Nemethy

(Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas a month before Christmas and all through the city,

The turkeys were savored and stollen made pretty.

But off in some corners there arose quite a clatter,

as keyboards were pounded amidst deadline chatter.

The ads were all pasted, the edits were made,

while Nat* and his crew sweated bills to be paid.

No reindeer awaited, no Jolly St. Nick,

no presents arriving with eye-twinkling schtick.

Just a name and some photos and pages to print

filled with stories and news about town government.

Thus The Bridge sprang to life back now 30 long years,

weathering floods, pandemics, and poor business fears.

No small feat indeed, and so we exclaim.

Merry Christmas to all, and deserving acclaim!

*Nat Frothingham is one of The Bridge’s founders, and ran the paper as its editor and publisher for over 15 years.

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