State pulls the plug on Vermont Life magazine

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) It's the end of the line for Vermont Life. The iconic, state-owned magazine has been in print for 72 years but the state says it can no longer support a publication that is over $3 million in debt.

It was more than just a magazine to Richard Brown and Susan McClellan, who have worked for Vermont Life for years. They thought there was light at the end of the tunnel for the historic publication and say they were blindsided by Thursday's news.

"It's going to be a big hole and I don't know how the state's gonna fill it," Richard Brown said.

Brown says one of the first photos he ever saw of Vermont was in a Vermont Life magazine.

"It was actually taken right out of this place looking that way at an old white draft horse," he said.

Brown went on to be a longtime freelance photographer for the magazine. His wife, Susan McClellan, was the art director for the last 10 years.

"It's a great advertisement for the state," McClellan said. "People come here to visit and they love Vermont. They grab a little piece of it with a magazine, they take it home and it makes them want to come back."

She says the magazine was all about tourism, trying to bring people back to Vermont and sell Vermont products. But in an era of intense media competition, the magazine could no longer generate enough revenue to survive.

"It's an iconic magazine. It really is some part of our tradition. I know, seeing many of my relatives receive that magazine every single year," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

The governor says there was nothing the state could do to save the magazine. Vermont Life fans have pushed for more state support for years and wonder if that would have made a difference.

"You can't make up $3.5 million in a couple of years. Two decades of losing money or more, I think, as well, is very short-sighted," McClellan said.

McClellan and Brown still had hoped the magazine would survive. It was projected to break even this year and there was talk of expanding issues, more calendars and a possible book to bring in more money. The couple were surprised to learn of the closing.

"It's the end of an era," McClellan said. "It's a great tradition to lose and I think the state's going to be sorry."

Vermont Life will release its final issue next week. They hope to transition the brand to a digital platform. There is no official confirmation at this point what will happen with the six full-time employees.