Pictured left to right: Mike Jacques, Kay Santamore, Paul Giacherio, Deborah Phillips, Aeletha Kelly, Jim Elliot, Christine Richardson and Gary Hass. Missing from photo: Darlene Callahan, Chris Myers and Lisa Companion.
On May 11 The WORLD, or as it has been so often called “Washington WORLD” since its beginning in 1972, turns 50 and is still going strong despite the decline in the stature of newspapers – especially independent locally owned ones.
“Wow! The years really do fly by,” say co-publishers Gary Hass and Deborah Phillips who have owned and continuously operated The WORLD for the last 48 years.
“We have gone almost full cycle of resurrecting a “start-up paper” to a leading central Vermont community newspaper (some would say the economic Bible of the 80s, 90s and 2000s). Now we are firmly in the mix of traditional and new social media,” state the co-publishers.
“But we still have fun putting it out each week. There is no shortage of stories and events in central Vermont, and we still get good results for our advertisers.”
None of this would be possible, of course, without a truly talented and hard-working staff from the very beginning of the paper to the present, relate the co-publishers.
Starting in Oct. 1974 along with Hass and Phillips was a fellow Eastern Michigan University student, the amazing feature-writer Russell “Skip” Smith.
Then as the paper grew in the following years Hass, who had been selling advertising and writing stories, and Phillips, who had been doing all the composition and bookkeeping began adding an office manager, then an editor, a bookkeeper and accountant, sales staff, delivery people and by the 1990s the staff of full and part-time was nearly at 30 with an additional 100-plus kids and adults doing weekly deliveries.
The circulation of the original Washington WORLD had grown from its startup in 1972 covering just the greater Montpelier area with 3500 households and newsstands to the 28,500 free door to door delivery in over 36 towns in the 1990s throughout central Vermont.
The present “after Covid” status of The WORLD is 10 very experienced and talented staff, and a circulation of over 10,000 copies each week mostly by newsstand delivery in 38 towns with expectations of future growth in the coming months.
Originally a “broadsheet” format, Hass and Phillips changed to an easier handling tabloid format in 1976.
What is ironic about being called for so many years, “Washington WORLD,” is that many people do not know it really meant Washington County WORLD which became very appropriate as the paper grew out of just covering the Montpelier area to all of Washington county and now beyond and into Orange and parts of Caledonia and Lamoille counties, explain Hass and Phillips.
In that first edition of Washington WORLD on May 11, 1972, which was started as a capital bureau for the Springfield, Vt. Times-Reporter, were stories about the “New Direct-line Centrex II Telephone System being installed by New England Telephone Co.; Ethel Wheaton, a secretary to the Sergeant of Arms Reide Payne and herself the acting Sergeant of Arms in 1965 – a first for women at the State House; a write-up about Norwich University freshman Mike Czok of Barre who scattered four hits and fanned 11 in 6 & 2/3rds innings of brilliant relief pitching over Castleton; an exciting outdoor sports feature by Tom Conlon of Montpelier on “Canoe-ists Take To White Water Training On The Mad River”; and culinary reviews on the opening of the Thrush Tavern by Paul and Tom Rumley, and the reopening of the Runway Rendezvous Restaurant by Harry and Sandra Monti of Barre.
Of course, there were many more tidbits on local clubs, social notes, news and editorials. Advertisements included Gray’s at 15 Main Street in Montpelier announcing tennis apparel and other sportswear by Catalina, Pandora, White Stag and Garland; WSKI AM was promoting its very popular disc jockey Bob Bannon; Chittenden Bank offered 9.32 annual percentage rate for new model cars; the Grand Union Supermarket had whole chickens for 28 cents per lb., Margarine 3 pounds for 99 cents, Valencia Oranges 10 for 39 cents and Swanson Frozen Dinners 49-cents each; and W.J. Heney & Son Realtors offered a Greenfield Terrace Split Foyer (over 2400 sq. ft. of living space) for $45,500.
According to Hass and Phillips, Oliver R.B. Stalter, the original publisher of Washington WORLD stated in the first edition: “a newspaper is a service. It is a communication service. It helps a community with a sense of identity and belonging. A community newspaper does this best. That is what we want to be … a community service, contributing to the life of one special area – Central Vermont!”
The first editor of Washington WORLD was a veteran newspaper man Bill Soule and he stated in that first edition. “The Washington WORLD will be a weekly community newspaper focusing primarily on its people and its business and government. It combines the creative talents of writers, photographers, and editors with the interest of area merchants who support the venture with their advertising.”
Hass and Phillips state that they feel they have accomplished the ideals behind Washington WORLD and will continue with high hopes for more great adventures in The WORLD.
If anyone would like a copy of that first broadsheet Washington WORLD a limited amount is available at The WORLD office at 403 US Rte. 302 (Barre-Montpelier Road) in Berlin.