2019 Annual Report
Who We Are
VTDigger is a nonprofit online news daily dedicated to public-service journalism. We cover Vermont politics, consumer affairs, business, education, energy, the environment and other matters of public concern.
VTDigger was founded in 2009 and merged with the Vermont Journalism Trust in 2011, becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The mission of Vermont Journalism Trust and VTDigger is to produce rigorous journalism that explains complex issues, holds the government accountable to the public, and engages Vermonters in the democratic process.
2019 Board of Directors
Anne Galloway, Hardwick
Bill Mares, Burlington
Carin Pratt, Strafford
Crea Lintilhac, Shelburne
Curtis Koren, Brookfield
Don Hooper, Brookfield
Eric Hanson, Burlington
Jake Perkinson, Burlington
John Reilly, Burlington
Kathryn Stearns, Hanover (NH)
Kevin Ellis, Montpelier
Lauren Geiger, Plainfield
Louisa Schibli, Charlotte
Mathew Rubin, Montpelier
Neale Lunderville, South Burlington
Rob Woolmington, North Bennington
Tom Evslin, Stowe
2019 Staff Members
Executive Director & Founder: Anne Galloway
Editors: Cate Chant, Colin Meyn, Dave Gram, Elizabeth Hewitt, Jim Welch, Mark Johnson, Mike Dougherty,
Reporters: Aidan Quigley, Anne Wallace Allen, Alan J. Keays, Ellie French, Elizabeth Gribkoff, Erin Petenko, Felippe Rodriques, Grace Elletson, John Walters, Justin Trombly, Katie Jickling, Kevin O’Connor, Kit Norton, Lola Duffort, Michael Faher, Xander Landen
Photographer: Glenn Russell
Business Office: Dan Dudensing, Dylan Woodrow, Florencio Terra, Libbie Pattison, Liz Raddock, Marnie DeFreest, Phayvanh Luekhamhan, Sam Lucci
Freelancers: Mark Bushnell, Jasper Craven, Duane Dunston, Susan Green, Adam Hall, Jon Margolis, David Moats, Katy Savage
Interns: Alexandre Silberman, Iris Lewis, Jacob Dawson, Keegan McKenna, Mariel Wamsley, Peng Chen, Sarah Ashe
Letter from the Editor
Across the country, journalism continues to shed thousands of jobs and newspapers are shuttering, unable to compete with big tech’s dominance in the advertising market.
As the commercial business model implodes, an erosion of public trust in the media is undercutting journalism’s vital role in healthy communities and democracy writ large.
VTDigger stands in contrast to these trends, doggedly pursuing our mission of public service journalism with ever-growing support from the public. This year, our innovative nonprofit model gained national recognition and we saw double-digit increases in readership and subscriptions to our reporting.
In the era of misinformation, AI algorithms and corporate consolidation, we are more convinced than ever that there is no substitute for the gritty, old-fashioned reporting that is at the heart of what we do at VTDigger.
Our stories continue to bring justice to bear on issues of government accountability and issues of high public interest. We have doubled down on legal fights for public access to records, and we are teaming up with other Vermont media organizations to challenge the Vermont Attorney General’s unwillingness to recognize a new precedent protecting the free public inspection of records.
In 2019, we published 3,194 daily and investigative stories. It is important to us to share with our readers our investigations from the past year, and their impact. Our members made this impact possible.
Founder and Editor, VTDigger
Financials: Vermont Journalism Trust, LTD.
Audited Statement of Activities
January 1, 2019 - December 31, 2019
By the Numbers
|Pageviews per month on average||Up 18% vs 2018|
|Unique readers per month on average||Up 32% vs 2018|
|Email subscribers||Up 44% vs 2018|
|Deeper Dig podcast subscribers|
|Members (includes monthly)|
|Monthly members||Up 80% vs. 2018|
|Confidential tips submitted|
In pursuit of our mission of watchdog journalism that engages Vermonters, VTDigger published reporting on public policy, demographic shifts, climate change and investigative stories.
Business reporter, Anne Wallace Allen, wrote a series on how the proposed minimum wage increase would affect Vermonters, including those in the farming, restaurant, and retail industries.
Reporter Aidan Quigley, Jim Welch and a team of data reporters worked on a story, Who Owns Burlington, over a six-month period. The two-part series examined real estate holdings by private landowners and large nonprofits.
In data-reporter Erin Petenko’s first data analysis for VTDigger, she examined the out-migration and in-migration patterns from 2010 to 2018 and found that 10,000 people left the state.
VTDigger tirelessly covered the energy and environment beat. We joined 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative. Reporter Elizabeth Gribkoff examined the impact of climate change on Vermont businesses; the fact that Vermont will not meet its emissions goals; an onset of migration to Vermont known as 'climigration' as places out West face massive wildfires; and what foresters and farmers are doing to combat new pests as the climate warms.
Elizabeth and Anne Wallace Allen collaborated on an in-depth story on proposed changes to the state’s net metering policies for the solar industry.
Below are some examples of our investigative reporting that have had tangible impact on public policy and public discourse in Vermont:
The Year in Photos
VTDigger was there to capture it all. In 2019, veteran Vermont photographer Glenn Russell joined VTDigger’s digital team. Glenn’s images capture the drama and humanity of events ranging from impassioned protests to the indictment of the Jay Peak developers. Meanwhile, VTDigger’s beat reporters help document news where it happens, from the U.S. Capitol to far-flung rallies.
VTDigger launched several new projects in 2019. We are grateful for the reader feedback that we have received along the way to help shape the results.
Public Records Fight
One area of our work that many of our readers may not know much about is our ongoing struggle to secure fair access to public records. VTDigger has been fighting legal battles on multiple fronts to obtain access to public records related to a number of matters of high public interest.
Vermont's public records law is rife with hundreds of exemptions that shield state agencies from public scrutiny. The importance of the public records fight to Vermont’s democracy and freedom of the press cannot be understated.
We have engaged legal counsel to sue over state EB-5 documents and personnel records regarding the case of Edward Adams, a former superintendent of Southern State Correctional Facility who is accused of sexual harassment.
After 8 months of mediation with the Vermont Attorney General’s office, VTDigger revealed that the state had destroyed months of EB-5 records pertaining to the biggest fraud in the state’s history.
Collaboration within the Vermont media landscape is important to VTDigger, especially on the issue of public records law as it affects the ability of all journalists to provide accurate reporting to the public. We will continue to work with our media partners to demand public access to records.
Our News Community
Our readers are our news community. The reporting that we do is driven by their information needs. We seek to engage our readers in the creation our journalism and the democratic process.
We had 670 confidential tips submitted via our tipster portal in 2019, not counting the hundreds more we receive via social, email, and phone. Our reporters are trained to follow up with tipsters and readers have led us to some of our most important stories.
VTDigger published nearly 1,000 commentaries in 2019. Cate Chant is our commentary editor and selects thoughtful pieces about issues of importance to Vermonters. Readers are invited to submit commentaries to Cate at [email protected].
Reader surveys help us understand issues that matter most to our readers. We sent out surveys to gain feedback on election issues and our new newsletter, the Final Reading. We also conducted a reader survey aimed at understanding reader habits and demographics.
We created shared space with our news community throughout the year.
We hosted two presidential forums with John Hickenlooper and Bill Weld.
And celebrated our 10 year anniversary with three special events across the state:
A Decade of Digger: Caledonia Spirits
VTDigger turned ten this year! It's important to say thank you, so we threw a party for all our members at Calendonia Spirits in Montpelier.
A Decade of Digger: David Sanger
We hosted a dialogue with New York Times national security correspondent, David Sanger, held at the Manchester Community Library.
A Decade of Digger: The Alchemist
We hosted an intimate evening at Vermont's storied Alchemist Brewery for some of our philanthropic supporters and founding members.
In 2019, VTDigger provided daily news briefs for VPR and WDEV. Our reporters also held two-way's with anchors at the two stations.
Our AP-style distribution service was used by 14 local daily and weekly newspapers:
- Stowe Reporter
- Waterbury Record
- News & Citizen
- Shelburne News
- The Citizen
- The Other Paper
- St. Alban’s Messenger
- Addison Independent
- Reporter in Brandon
- Essex Reporter
- Colchester Sun
- Milton Independent
- Valley News
- Caledonian Record
We continue to work with our national partner, PolitiFact, to produce Politifact Vermont, an ongoing series of fact checks of statements made by political figures, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Phil Scott.
VTDigger would like to thank these foundations, businesses and every single individual member for supporting our nonprofit journalism. We truly could not do this without you.
American Journalism Project
Ethics & Excellence in Journalism
Google News Initiative
High Meadows Fund
Johnson Family Foundation
Northeast Kingdom Fund of Vermont Community Foundation
Neil & Louise Tillotson Fund
At the end of 2019, VTDigger was awarded a transformational investment from the American Journalism Project in our business operations as a model for nonprofit news nationally. AJP will invest $900,000 in VTDigger’s business operations over three years.
AJP is a new groundbreaking venture philanthropy organization dedicated to supporting civic news. AJP’s mission is grounded in an understanding of the scope and gravity of the news crisis across the country. VTDigger is one of eleven news organizations across the United States to receive inaugural funding from AJP.
We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to strengthen our model and share the lessons we have learned over the years — many of them the hard way– with our peers across the country. Read more.
What our readers are saying...
Ken Wooden, Bolton
“I sent your org. a check for $100.00. For me as a lifetime freelance journalist on a very fixed income, it was like sending a $100K… Because I deeply believe in your work which is more important than ever, I will support VTDigger for as long as I live. Keep digging and don't get tired.”
Jito Coleman, Warren
“I have to start my day with VTDigger, just to make sure I'm up on the latest, most in depth local news. No slant just the facts. Commentaries cover a broad spectrum of opinions just like Vermont. Their investigative journalism and their doggedness is just what we all need more of. Digging out the truth from the obfuscation, lies and dribble that surround politics these days is a service I'm well prepared to pay for.”
Eileen Andreoli, Winooski
“VTDigger is the most powerful investigative journalism entity in the state of Vermont. No one else covers stories with the focus and journalistic integrity of VTDigger. A blessing for transparency, the scourge of obstructionism, they are the best at what they do. Thank you!!!”