Community media outlet asks for public comment

Jan. 20, 2010
Contact: Ken Norris, WBTN, 802-442-6321 or

WBTN forum planned for public comment on community information needs

BENNINGTON, Vt. — Shires Media Partnership Inc., the non-profit owner of radio station WBTN is convening a regional meeting at the Bennington Free Library on Thurs. Feb. 28 to gather public comment and advice on how it can meet the information needs of Southwestern Vermont.

WBTN 1370 AM’ss signal reaches Bennington, Southwestern Vermont and nearby New York, but its Web streaming reaches around the world. The meeting will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the library and the public is invited. Light snacks will be available for those missing dinner.

In addition to members of the Shires Media governing board and WBTN staff, community information experts from Washington, D.C., and Burlington, will also attend.

“We’re asking the public to tell us how they get information and how we can be part of their information network,” said Ken Norris, Executive Director of WBTN. “We want to know not only where they get their local news, arts and entertainment but where they get information about what is important in their lives: jobs, housing, taxes, safety, education, transportation, child care, health care and religion.”

Board members of Shires Media, which began operating Bennington’s locally owned radio station last year, plan for the meeting to be a first step in assessing whether the organization can serve the community in a variety of ways, not just on the radio dial. Shires Media and WBTN is seeking to hear comment from representatives of schools, media, businesses, agencies, community groups and the general public.

“WBTN has a long history of community service,” said Robert Howe, volunteer board chairman of Shires Media and resident of North Bennington. “But the Internet is changing the way community information is created and used. As Shires Media seeks grant and foundation support, we need to understand what civic information southwestern Vermont most urgently needs, and look to see if we can provide services which help meet those needs.”

The importance of small towns, not just major cities, holding meetings to assess their information needs in a digital age was recommended by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a report released last year (downloadable from Physical copies of the report will be available free to the public at the Bennington library several days before the meeting but a key excerpt may be downloaded from:

A sharp drop in revenues and numbers of reporters at major U.S. newspapers was a key factor prompting the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to establish the commission in 2008 and ask that its members hold hearings and report on the state of America’s civic media. The commission was co-chaired by a key executive of Google Inc. and a former U.S. solicitor general. It included media, government, academic, business and public representatives, including a librarian.

WBTN is a community non-profit radio station dedicated to providing the greater Bennington area with local news and entertainment focusing on community produced programs. WBTN 1370 am is a 501(c) (3) non-profit which operates out of offices and studio at 407 Harwood Hill, Bennington. For information on WBTN 1370 am, visit , e-mail at , or call at 802-442-6321.