Budding Writer, 1979: We may scoop the Valley News

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The sun rises over a field in North Hero, Vermont, on May 9, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Every new reporter dreams of that “first scoop.” In my first weeks with the Journal Opinion, a small weekly in Bradford, Vermont, mine came from an unlikely source.

… I lazed in the sun all day, discovered (a) I did not make the cut for interviews for the Ass’t Dean of Freshmen post, (b) that TIME SHARE will call me, not the other way around, (c) that Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital wants to interview me for PR work on May 15, and (d) that the New England Entertainment Digest wants me.

To top off the day, I was the only reporter at an otherwise sleepy Bradford Village Trustees meeting where they dropped a bombshell in the form of cutting off funding for the Low-Pritchard Foundation. This means we may scoop the Valley News and other papers in a major story! All in all, not really a bad day for my career, all concerned.

Also, I had a chance to talk a little with Robert and others — I seem to be gaining some friends at the meetings I’m covering. It’s good to be accepted.

Journal, Volume II
9 May 1979

A scoop means a story that no other media outlet has — particularly an important story. The only other medium covering Bradford at the time was the Valley News, which serves the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire. The weekly JO served both sides of the Connecticut River, too, but our circulation area was only the northern quarter of our daily rival’s.

Usually a scoop comes to a reporter from a tipster, an inside source, investigative reporting, or some other effort. This one was unusual because it was right there in a public meeting. The other reporter simply wasn’t there. It literally dropped in my lap while I was sitting there and my rival wasn’t.

But was it an important story? Would he have covered it anyway? Did it affect many people? I’m going to have to do some research to find out. Frankly, I can’t remember.

The Low-Pritchard House was a historic home then owned by the nonprofit Low-Pritchard Foundation. Several members of the board resigned after all this. But what was the foundation’s purpose? Why were the taxpayers of the village paying for it? How much of the foundation’s money came from the village?

More important: Was a scandal involved? Reporters love scandals.

As an investigative reporter (and a history buff), I’ll have to do some digging into this. It also shows up in some future journal entries.

Oh, and about that awkward, unparallel, knot of a first sentence I forced you to read:

  • Don’t laze in the sun all day.
  • (a) we already knew I would not get the job as Baby Dean;
  • (b) I have no idea what TIME SHARE was but it was likely a local software company looking for someone who could write English rather than code;
  • (c) Alice Peck Day was a small community hospital in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in the shadow of Mary Hitchcock Memorial in Hanover. Both are now part of the Dartmouth Health System, with Dartmouth-Hitchcock based in Lebanon;
  • (d) We’ve already talked about NEED. Now I had some decisions to make.