Monocle Profiles Vermont ‘Press Baron’ R. John Mitchell

By now everyone knows that the big picture for newspaper business is bleak. Today in The New York Times, David Carr surveys the media landscape—including more layoffs at The Los Angeles Times; The Christian Science Monitor ceasing its daily print edition; massive cuts at Time, Inc.; etc., ad infinitum—and concludes, “Clearly, the sky is falling.”

But what about the small picture? What’s life like inside a paper like The Rutland Herald, published in central Vermont with a circulation of about 17,000? The new issue of Monocle, Tyler Brûlé’s non-lifestyle magazine features a story about The Herald by Joshua Kucera that offers an interesting glimpse at the business concerns of a small paper.

The story, which like much of Monocle‘s content is only teased online (though the site does have a shop full of exclusive products!), focuses on publisher R. John Mitchell, whom Mr. Kucera describes as:

[T]rying, here in Vermont’s second city (population 17,000), to buck the trend in American newspapers towards corporate ownership and shrinking news coverage.

According to Mr. Kucera, The Herald “was first published in 1794 and is one of the oldest papers in the U.S., and the oldest still operating under its original name.” By contrast, The New York Post was founded in 1801 (and, no, Steve Dunleavy did not start shortly thereafter) and The New York Times started in 1851.

Just because it’s a small paper doesn’t mean The Herald hasn’t had an impact. A high point for the paper came in 2001 when The Herald‘s David Moats won a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for a series of columns on same sex civil unions. (Mr. Moats went on to write a book called Civil Wars: Gay Marriage in America, which prompted Newsday‘s Claiborne Smith to somewhat clunkily refer to him as “A straight eye for a gay marriage.”) In 2005, the paper fought to keep a reporter from testifying at a murder trial. (That comes via Jim Romenesko.)

Mr. Mitchell—whose 31-year-old son, Rob also works for the paper as special projects editor—has created a network of 41 publications (Monocle somewhat breathlessly describes it as “a small media empire”—the display copy on Mr. Kucera’s story also calls Mr. Mitchell a “press baron”) in order to sell bulk advertising.

“My plan is to get us on the soundest financial footing I can,” Mr. Mitchell tells Monocle. “I don’t know where we’re going, but we’re not dead yet.”

It’s not enough optimism to hold up the sky, but it’s a start.

Monocle Profiles Vermont ‘Press Baron’ R. John Mitchell