- NENPA University
Member Spotlight - Yankee Quill Recipient R. John Mitchell
52nd Annual Yankee Quill Awards
R. John Mitchell, Rutland Herald and Times Argus
Vermont newspaper publisher R. John Mitchell has a long history of supporting the First Amendment, including legal fights for access to public records and to force open closed courtrooms. Without hesitation Mitchell has spent newspaper resources to fight protracted First Amendment battles in court.
Mitchell’s mission is simple: “To serve our customers and our community by providing indispensable, timely, accurate and relevant information. To foster debate, critical thinking, a spirit of independence, civic responsibility and a vibrant community.”
He also has served as a key member of the Vermont Press Association in battling proposed legislation intended to infringe on newspapers, including attempts to add taxes on advertising and circulation or imposing unemployment insurance on newspaper carriers. He has been called upon through the years by the VPA to provide expert testimony on other key legislative issues, recycled newspaper mandates, worker’s compensation, open meetings and public records.
Mitchell, the son of former longtime Rutland Herald publisher Robert W. Mitchell, is one of the few publishers in New England who can claim he has worked in virtually every department of a newspaper. Mitchell began working as a salesperson during the summer in 1965 at the Rutland Herald and eventually worked his way through all aspects of the newspaper business, including serving as a reporter and as a press assistant at the Framingham (Mass.) News. He later moved to the Times Argus in Barre as a wire editor and later in circulation and advertising. John Mitchell help to create a joint Sunday edition by the Herald and Times Argus in 1976 and two years later was named publisher in Barre.
His father, Robert Mitchell, was among the buyers of the Times Argus in 1963, four years after the Barre Daily Times bought the Montpelier Argus and merged. After the death of his father in 1993, John Mitchell became publisher and president of both newspapers in Rutland and Barre.
The Rutland Herald, the second largest daily newspaper in Vermont, bills itself as the as the oldest continuously family-owned newspaper in the United States published under the same name in the same city. It covers the four southern counties of Vermont and along with the Times Argus, which focuses on Washington County, they run the Vermont Press Bureau by covering state news in Montpelier. The Herald won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for a series of editorials supporting civil unions.
The Herald and Times Argus have proudly never missed a beat -- even with local fires, floods and other issues. After combining press operations at the Times Argus, the city of Barre was flooded in 2011 forcing the two newspapers to be printed at the Burlington Free Press and the Post Star in Glen Falls, N.Y. while Mitchell tried to resolve the multi -million water and mud damage throughout the plant.
Mitchell has been active in numerous newspaper groups, including serving on boards of the New England Press Association and the New England Newspaper Association. More recently he served on the Associated Press Board of Directors (2003- 2012), often fighting for the rights of other small daily newspapers.
The Mitchell organization also operates four monthly Business Journals – Rutland, Champlain Valley, Battenkill and Valley – that communicate positive business news written by local writers. John Mitchell, like his father, is a member of the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame. A son, Rob, is now the third generation involved in the newspaper chain.
-- Mike Donoghue, Vermont Press Association, Academy of New England Journalists