Mike Townsend

Executive Editor, Burlington Free Press

Burlington, VT

[VT-E 0201]

I think what I find as I developed over the years – and I think this is the thing that I know good editors in my company whether they’re in Cincinnati, whether they’re in Indianapolis, you know, Asheville – and there’s a lot of us – lot of us been together for a long time here. This is what – when I go through this process is that I am truly gotten to the point where it’s not a matter – the word objective is not the right word – the word is that I am this absorption board, OK? And I absorb everything around me no matter what your perspective is, OK?

And no matter how kooky or wacky or far out you may be in terms of your message, I’ve learned – over the years – just to listen for a little bit – and I’m fairly quick in weeding out the wackiness. But sometimes, it takes a little while for people to give you that message – what it is – and you realize, “There was a nugget there – I get this.

So as I go through it – this is a very dynamic community in terms of age, background, politics, our closeness to Montréal, you know – you’ve got socialists here, Communists, the whole bit. And what I find out is that I’ve really grown attached to these individuals and their perspectives and understanding the dynamic of what brings a community together and makes it work. And it’s not me saying: “You’re right or you’re wrong.” It’s all of us.

I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned as I’ve gone through this is – is that I’ve recognized I’m that conveyor belt. And I have to be seen – you may not see me as an ally on the editorial page when I poke you in the eye with an editorial, and we do – we poke right in the eyeball. But, you also know – at the same time – I’m going to always come back and say, “If you come back and [say] I want the space. I’m going to give it to you. OK?”

I make sure that that platform is – there’s a level playing field in all the platforms no matter what it is. And I have a friend when I write something I get the tar beat out of me, online, from chat rooms – she’ll say, “They’re really being unfair.” And, I say, “Well, Patrice, I own the platform. I own the print platform, and I own the online. I am the 300-pound gorilla. My job is to make sure that it’s shared with everybody. OK?”

And so I will have communication with them, but if they really need to beat me up I just let them do it. And that’s because that’s they way they feel like they’re getting their comeuppance. So, that really plays out in all facets. It doesn’t just have to be the political field and also in any other area where people need that access to get their information out.

And we have actually seen – we know, we know – we put something in print, and we give it to you online – your chances of getting attendance are far better if I give it to [the newspaper] than somebody else. So you see that. You see that influence – right away.