Sidenote launched in Thetford, VT, on April 1st, 2021 as a platform for sharing stories that were too big for the Listserv but too small for the Valley News.
We've covered a lot of ground in less than 10 months, and keeping this operation rolling has been a lot of work. We’re not journalists nor do we have experience running a publication. In fact, most of our writers and people working on Sidenote behind the scenes are volunteers who do not have journalism training or experience in running a publication. Yet we strive to publish quality writing and apply ourselves to meet high journalistic standards by providing accurate and well-sourced information. This has been a learning curve, but we can be proud of this service, bringing a wide range of local knowledge about our town to a relatively large audience. The value it provides to readers is what keeps us going.
In total, Sidenote has published over 165 articles so far. Our most read article has garnered over 2,500 pageviews, and we average hundreds of pageviews per article. We also now have over 450 email subscribers who receive our articles by email every time we publish, a majority of which we can presume live in Thetford. This indicates that a decent portion of residents see value in the information we’re offering. And this is all free to access.
Here are a few articles that attracted the most attention:
- Lyme-East Thetford bridge rehabilitation delayed 1 year (January of 2021).
- Brian Boland will be remembered (July of 2021).
- From logs to lumber (in pictures), which profiled Ellis Paige, a renowned community figure (May of 2021).
- The geological story of Thetford, VT (October of 2021)
- Recycling and the plastics challenge (November of 2021)
This list of highly read content demonstrates that, in addition to crucial information about our natural and built environments, our audience is interested in stories about members of our community and connections between people.
Our success comes from our focus on people in our town and the key issues that affect them. One reader recently responded to an article on the Lyme-East Thetford bridge, saying, "Great job. I've always wondered about the bridge." Another reader shared this feedback after our recent article on milfoil in Lake Fairlee:
My daughter visiting from Manchester, NH, was lamenting with me the plight of local/regional print journalism. I pointed with pride to our compensating success with the internet. Her comment, "Well written article."
Sidenote's impact can be seen in the community. For example, our article on wakeboarding on Lake Fairlee supported community organizers that are now advocating for new statewide regulations, and our article on Raechel Cook's vision for a family center helped her fundraise.
Our dedication to hyper-local news and community stories is why Sidenote has gained so much traction. And for that we owe credit to our writers. Ten Thetford residents have written at least one article, and we will continue to seek out contributors. Actually, we have some breaking news.
Sidenote is now in Bradford, VT! Yesterday, Monique Priestley wrote her first article for Bradford, highlighting the town's Community Visit process that took place in 1999 and again in 2021. Could Thetford successfully follow a process like this?
There are some other updates to the website as well:
Search is now an available function on the website. Look for the search icon in the top right of every page. This makes it much easier to find past articles.
Light/dark mode is now automatically activated. This feature enables a "dark mode" version of the website for easier night-time reading. Look for the toggle switch at the very bottom of the website. It defaults to "auto," following whatever settings your computer system might already have.
That's the update, folks! And please do reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in writing. We'd love to be your platform for sharing hyper-local news and community stories.