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Vermont Law School newspaper back on the docket after 7-year hiatus

  • Julia Guerrein, news editor of The Forum, the student newspaper of Vermont Law School, calls out across North Windsor Street in South Royalton, Vt., with copies of the first edition to be published since 2012. Guerrein, left, Editor-In-Chief Kyle Clauss, middle, and contributor Jameson Davis, back right, set out to distribute the 500 printed copies around campus Friday morning Nov. 1, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Students Jill Macura, left, of Stoneham, Mass., and Kendall Watts, of Sand Point, Idaho, right, discuss The Forum over lunch after receiving their copies at Vermont Law School in Royalton, Vt., Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. The paper will be printed monthly. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Shirley Jefferson, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity, looks over a fresh copy of The Forum delivered to her office at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt., by Blake Weinard, the paper's lifestyle editor, left, and Kyle Clauss, editor-in-chief, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. Funding for the student-produced paper comes from Jefferson's office, but the staff plans to sell advertisements to help defray some production costs. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Arielle King, publisher of The Forum, hands out free copies of the paper to students emerging from classes at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt., Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. The newspaper was founded 45 years ago in 1975. Students began work in August to bring the paper back to life in print and online after a seven year hiatus. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2019 11:23:35 PM
Modified: 11/16/2019 12:39:35 AM

As newspaper offices go, the little room that The Forum now occupies is pretty Spartan. But that’s starting to change. On Nov. 1, two thick, banded stacks of newspapers arrived, fresh off the press. And last Wednesday morning, Editor-in-Chief Kyle Clauss showed up with a three-ring binder stuffed with yellowed editions of The Forum, just unearthed by a school staff member who’d heard the news that Vermont Law School’s newspaper is back.

A mere month ago, when all he had was this bare office on the second floor of Anderson Hall and a big idea, Clauss wasn’t certain the newspaper reboot would have an impact. But last week, as he flipped through the first edition of the new Forum, produced by a staff of six that came together pretty much overnight, and browsed the freshly discovered archives to find the stories that defined the institution in decades past, he knew he was on to something.

“People are excited,” said Clauss, a Boston University graduate and third-year Vermont Law School student who previously worked at the Lowell Sun and Boston Magazine.​​​​ “We really did not realize what we were tapping into.”

Highlights of the newest edition of The Forum, the first in about seven years, include news stories about activist events and partnerships on campus, an opinion column by Hartford Selectboard member and Vermont Law School student Jameson Davis about being black at VLS, a practical guide to surviving your first winter in Vermont, a vegan recipe from the school’s animal law society and a Halloween-themed cartoon.

There’s also an article by Clauss, reintroducing the newspaper and describing its purpose: to celebrate the work VLS students are doing in the community and beyond, to provide a platform for student and faculty voices and to contribute to VLS culture.

“With any luck, The Forum will rejoin the constellation of VLS traditions and bolster our unique sense of place for years to come,” he wrote.

So far, luck has been on his side.

Drawn to the South Royalton school, Vermont’s only law school, after the 2016 election, Clauss, 26, became intrigued by an edition of The Forum hanging in Debevoise Hall.

“I always wondered what it was and why it wasn’t still around,” he said.

Through research and asking around, Clauss learned that the paper was founded in 1975, a few years after the school opened. However, he couldn’t find any archives, and no one seemed to know precisely when the paper shut down. His best guess is November 2012, the date of the only paper he could get his hands on before last week.

Clauss toyed with the idea of reviving the paper for a while. This fall, with most of his course work behind him, the “third-year doldrums” hit and he decided it was time to put his plan into action. Then, things happened fast.

Clauss ran the idea by fellow students Arielle King and David Riley, who both served in student government with him last year, and they were game. King, who took the title of publisher, helped with logistical concerns like finding office space and contracting with a printer and began spreading the word about the paper.

Shirley Jefferson, associate dean of student affairs and diversity, helped the team secure some funding. The IT department found them a computer. A professor who used to work on the newspaper staff offered some advice. As word got out, several more students joined the staff and contributors lined up to write articles.

After that, “Arielle and I both looked at each other and said, ‘are we really going to put together a newspaper in less than a month?’ ”

They did.

The first issue, printed in a batch of 500 on the Penacook, N.H., press owned by Newspapers of New England, the Valley News’ parent company, ran into one glitch. The paper size they’d selected didn’t match the press options, so at the last minute they had to change some of the font to 14 point, a necessary but irksome choice. Other than that, everything went smoothly.

To distribute the free paper, King and Clauss put a rack outside the school cafe and stacks in well-traveled hallways. They also went old school. “We were literally just walking around handing them out to anyone who would take them,” King, a second-year student from Albany, N.Y., said in a phone interview.

King, who serves as a student member of the law school’s board of trustees, also gave copies to board members, most of whom are alumni, at their latest meeting. “They were very excited to see it back,” she said.

The school library received copies for its collection, too. “Since we are such a new school, there’s still a need to establish structures that kind of connect us and bind us together as an institution,” King said.

The paper also has an online presence at vlsforum.com.

Now that he has the beginnings of an archive, Clauss wants to use old stories to inform future ones. Flipping through the binder, which contains issues from the ’80s and ’90s, he found stories about political events, campus goings-on, a letter to the editor from Bernie Sanders, even an investigative piece about missing beer kegs.

Clauss, no stranger to hard-hitting journalism, said he wouldn’t be opposed to doing some investigative reporting if the right issue arose, but he’s hesitant to take an adversarial stance in his new role. “Any critique of the school The Forum will do will come from a place of love for the school,” he said.

As they plan future issues, The Forum staff have set some modest goals. They hope to secure some advertising to wean themselves off of school funding, and they’d like to distribute the paper more widely, perhaps by way of local businesses. Content-wise, they want to build a backbone of regular features that students can look forward to each month, and they want to include as many voices as they can in their pages.

“Now that students can look at it and feel it in their hands, there’s a lot more excitement about contributing,” Clauss said.

Clauss doesn’t have much time left to attain his goals: He’ll finish his on-campus courses in December and begin a semester in practice in Boston in January. But he hopes to put a solid structure in place before he goes.

“I don’t want it to go away again,” he said.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com or 603-727-3268.

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