UVM student-journalists stake out Statehouse beat

Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:23 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A new crop of reporters is working to provide news from the Vermont Statehouse. The University of Vermont is kicking off a program that sends student reporters to cover the workings of state government.

On a snowy Monday, young journalists pitched their best story ideas and plan for a week ahead in Vermont politics

The Statehouse is a little wonky and hard to digest for a lot of people, so to have 21 and 20-year-olds to go in and write it in digestible language for Vermont residents has been great,” said Emily Scheftman with UVM’s Center for Community News.

The Capitol News Service sends curious UVM students to the Golden Dome to cover stories impacting all Vermonters. Three reporters work 15 to 20 hours a week for credit and a small stipend, covering hot topics from agriculture to housing.

Sophomore Aubrey Weaver came to UVM from Denver and will be covering criminal justice and the judiciary. “I’m excited about it because I’m a new person and there’s all these new legislators that I think there may be a new kind of excitement in the Statehouse and introducing policies that Vermont has been more hesitant about,” Weaver said.

The program partners students with some 20 local newspapers to supplement local coverage of school boards, selectboards, and other local features while giving students a front-row seat to municipal and state government.

“Most people don’t have a statehouse where you can walk in and walk into a committee meeting. So for them, there’s been a learning curve of -- Oh, I really can walk in and nobody’s going to be like, ‘Why are you here? You can’t be here?’” Scheftman said.

Students will spend a few days a week in committee rooms at the Capitol, interviewing lawmakers and other officials and producing three stories a week.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is take the things they’re doing in the Statehouse and make them understandable to people and to see why it is important to people,” explained Abigail Carroll, a UVM senior.

Local newspapers have been challenged in recent years and the pandemic has accelerated those financial challenges. Justin Trombly, an editor with the news service, says the program helps Vermonters know what our elected leaders are up to. “It’s crucial to elections and Vermont and to this country to know what’s up with the folks people send to elected office,” he said.

Curious reporters looking to dig into the issues to enlighten and inform Vermonters.