FITCHBURG — On Tuesday, Feb. 7, several members of the Sentinel & Enterprise staff participated in a “Coffee with the Editor” event at Main Street Studios, hosted in partnership with the Fitchburg Cultural Alliance and InTown Fitchburg.
About 30 people attended the event and offered their feedback on the newspaper and shared ideas for how we can better reflect the community in our coverage. In the months ahead, we will look to interface with the community more through events like this and bring these events to each of our local communities.
Here are our takeaways:
Reporter Danielle Ray
The community has spoken and we’re listening.
We were thrilled to meet with dozens of passionate citizens the evening of Feb. 7 at Main Street Studios in beautiful downtown Fitchburg and talk to them about what we can do to better serve the city and greater area through our work at the newspaper. We heard what you said and will be taking your suggestions and requests to heart.
Although we are a small team with limited resources, we are mighty and have a lot to offer — and a lot of talent to pull from. We cover an area of approximately 150,000 people between the Twin Cities and nearly a dozen towns in North Central Mass., with one full-time editor Jake Vitali, who does double duty as the editor of both the Sentinel & Enterprise and the Nashoba Valley Voice; myself, the only full-time Sentinel reporter; and one full-time reporter, Shane Rhodes, who splits his time between the Sentinel & Enterprise’s two other sister newspapers under the MediaNews Group umbrella, Nashoba Valley Voice and the Lowell Sun.
We have some fantastic freelance staff including Community Editor Cheryl Cuddahy, who has been with the Sentinel & Enterprise in different capacities for many years, reporter Sara Arnold, and columnists Sally Cragin, Rev. Wil Darcangelo, Bonnie Page and Kevin Williams. Plus, we have two amazing photographers Gary Fournier and Alan Arsenault.
Several of these hardworking people joined us just within the last year and are helping to expand our reach and capabilities and we are looking to add even more freelancers. In addition, we are currently working with Fitchburg State University to finalize a plan to bring on journalism student interns.
We cover hard news, breaking news, feature stories, human interest, businesses, fundraisers and important events, milestones including wedding anniversaries and birthdays, run press releases and community calendars, and so much more. We feature people of color, female and minority owned businesses, diverse groups and nonprofits, guest columnists from all walks of life, and are always on the lookout for good stories — feel free to reach out.
Here’s to working together to continuously strive to make the Sentinel & Enterprise better and more focused on what people are asking for. I have no doubt we can deliver and then some. Onward and upward!
City Editor Jacob Vitali
The passion people have for the city of Fitchburg is electrifying. People want strong communities and in turn, they desire a strong newspaper that reflects their community.
For a strong newspaper, we need the community’s support. We hope you will tell us the types of stories you want us to cover, what is happening in your neighborhood and who your local heroes are — if something is happening, we want to hear about it.
We also want to encourage you to get involved by sending well-argued letters to the editor, photography and writing. If the newspaper is going to reflect the community, it should have community voices at the forefront.
In the future, we will take steps to maximize our output of local news with the resources we have available. We will be more selective about the stories we borrow from our sister publications and work to localize them for the North Central region. We will also look to grow our relationships with local school districts, nonprofits and small businesses to ensure everyone feels they are represented fairly and as though you have the information you need.
As the city editor of this newspaper, I am committed to doing all I can with the resources we have to create the best product possible. I am also committed to spending more time than ever in Fitchburg and our surrounding communities, meeting you, and hearing your stories. I want to curse at the same potholes you curse at, dine at the restaurants you dine at, and immerse myself in this area like never before. I am also hoping to become a full-time resident of Fitchburg or a surrounding community in the near future.
As we move forward, we know that the Sentinel & Enterprise holds strong roots in Fitchburg but it also must best serve the communities of Leominster, Lunenburg, Ashburnham, Ashby, Lancaster, Shirley, Townsend and Westminster too. Moving forward, we plan to sit down in these communities and listen to your feedback.
Senior Editor Bruce Castleberry
The turnout in downtown Fitchburg sent a message that we all felt afterward: there is a place, even a desire, for what the Sentinel & Enterprise can provide.
The more than two dozen government officials, business leaders, and interested parties made us not just feel welcomed, they provided faces that made us feel connected to the community. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say every one of us left the building with a heightened sense of responsibility to report and deliver the news that matters to the people of the area.
Sometimes you can get a little tunnel vision and not know how you’re being perceived. This was the best possible positive reinforcement. These people care about the business environment in Fitchburg, including the little newspaper that could. We’re even more determined now to succeed.
Reporter Shane Rhodes
We are a small team and our jobs, given the restraints placed upon on us are not always easy. But the people of Fitchburg have made it clear that there is a want, a need for strong, continued and consistent local coverage and we the few that contribute to the Sentinel & Enterprise every day will continue to deliver to the best of our ability.
To do that, however, we need the involvement and support of the community. Yes, we invite readers to share ideas, ask what it is, exactly, that they want to see when they read the paper every morning, but we need more: we need people who are passionate for and truly care for their community.
And it’s clear that Fitchburg has such personalities in spades.
As brief as our conversation may have been, it has been made abundantly clear to me that there are people out there who care for and are passionate about not just the Fitchburg community, but their local paper and local journalism on the whole. Readers out there actively root for us because, on some level, they understand that our successes are their successes — the news can facilitate growth and/or change in the community, but our work can shine brightest only when we have access to and can truly connect with the best parts of that community and ourselves.
The modern world has not been kind to journalism, nor journalists. But that there are people out there who continue to support us in our endeavors is truly inspiring and can make our role that much easier, fulfilling and worthwhile. As we move forward and continue to ask for your feedback, I know us here at the Sentinel & Enterprise will continue to work diligently to deliver the best product we can.