Monthly e-newsletter to share happenings in Buckland, Shelburne

Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls.

Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-26-2023 1:19 PM

What was formerly a platform for Shelburne’s municipal news has been reborn as a two-town newsletter featuring a wide range of community announcements.

Four Buckland and Shelburne residents have created Two Town News, an email newsletter that arrives in people’s inboxes monthly. It includes reports from municipal boards as well as information about happenings in the village and beyond.

“A group of Shelburne and Buckland residents have come together to revive the e-newsletter idea, this time as a community-based two-town e-newsletter, operating completely independent of our municipal governments,” Andrew Baker wrote in the October edition of the newsletter.

A shared vision

All four people on the Two Town News Board came up with the idea of an e-newsletter separately, but came together to make it happen.

Baker, a Shelburne resident who now handles subscriptions for Two Town News, ran the municipal newsletter for Shelburne. It started as a solo mission that was not government-funded. Baker did this while serving on the Selectboard, of which he is still a member.

As the newsletter grew it became more official, getting its own municipal email address and getting reports from the town boards. When the First Congregational Church of Shelburne asked if it could use the newsletter to advertise an event, Baker realized, with warning from Town Administrator Terry Narkewicz, that his project had been pigeonholed into only being able to support municipal news.

Making a strictly municipal newsletter was not Baker’s intention, so he realized he needed to take the project on a different path.

“I learned a few valuable lessons from this process,” Baker wrote in a statement about the newsletter. “If you want to print community news, don’t ask for municipal resources to assist, even if part of your purpose is to help town government better inform and engage with town residents. That was a tactical mistake that arose from trying to operate a free e-newsletter with zero resources.”

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Coming along to help Baker in March was Tricia Yacovone-Biagi, who now handles layout for Two Town News.

“I primarily got involved because I recognize the importance of information as a conduit to create social ties,” Yacovone-Biagi said.

She has a background in creating resilient communities and thinks that information-sharing platforms, like this e-newsletter, are important for creating strong communities that are better equipped when facing shocks like climate change.

“Having those relationships already present will help us build back and build back better,” she said. “The more we can help build that type of fabric in community, the better off we all will be.”

Arms Library Director Laurie Wheeler also wished for there to be a community newsletter. She explained that people at the library have been talking about creating one for years and the library is a perfect entity to be involved because “libraries are part of the infrastructure to create safe, informative spaces.”

Wheeler hopes to apply for a Civic Hub grant administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to increase participation in the new e-newsletter.

Lastly, Joan Livingston, a Buckland Selectboard member and retired editor-in-chief of the Greenfield Recorder, came forward to be the Two Town News copy editor to fill the need for a Buckland newsletter that residents voiced during a meeting.

“With all the connections I had and that Andrew had across the river, it made a lot of sense to have us all move together in the same direction,” Livingston said.

Making it happen

The coverage in Two Town News consists of reports from municipal boards as well as news about art exhibits, school events, nonprofit fundraisers, community gatherings, entertainment and more.

“We see a niche for slow news as a monthly,” Baker said. “We are hoping to provide slow and local news to Shelburne and Buckland and anyone else wants to read it.”

The old municipal newsletter had about 500 subscribers. Two Town News is building its readership from the ground up. There were 123 subscribers upon the first publication (83 from Shelburne, 20 from Buckland and 20 from outside the two towns). Baker said the number of subscribers has more than doubled since then.

To contribute to the newsletter, people can email articles of 200 words or less to shelbucknews@gmail.com. Deadlines are two weeks before their publication date. People can also subscribe by writing to the same email.