PROVINCETOWN — The first recipients of a new journalism fellowship program created by the Provincetown Independent have been welcomed to town by the newspaper’s publisher, Teresa Parker, and staff.
Lee Kahrs was named winner of the Winter Fellowship in Journalism Leadership and Thomas Lyons the winner of the Winter Fellowship in Community Reporting.
Funds for the two awards are being provided by the Murray/Reese Foundation through the Local Journalism Project of the Center for the Study of Public Policy, a nonprofit based in Somerville.
The fellowships include housing at the Mary Heaton Vorse House at 466 Commercial St., through the generosity of the Provincetown Arts Society and its patron, Ken Fulk, who bought the house from Vorse’s granddaughters in 2018 and oversaw its restoration by builder Nate McKean.
Vorse, author of Time and the Town: A Provincetown Chronicle, was a pioneering journalist and civil rights activist who died at home in 1966 at age 92.
Lee Kahrs, Veteran Newswoman
It’s been 33 years since Lee Kahrs gathered up her college graduation money, got in her 1974 Buick LeSabre, and headed to Provincetown for a summer adventure. Being named a Vorse Fellow represents the chance to fulfill a longtime dream: to live and work here.
A 20-year veteran of small-town newspapers in Vermont, Kahrs is an award-winning reporter and published essayist. She has covered a wide range of beats, from the state house to school systems to local business.
Kahrs began her career in Vermont at the St. Albans Daily Messenger in 2002 after leaving New York City following the events of 9/11. She had spent eight years as a professional stage manager before the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Kahrs was the managing editor, chief cook, and bottle washer for 12 years at The Reporter, the weekly newspaper covering the towns of Brandon, Pittsford, Proctor, and West Rutland. She was responsible for all aspects of newspaper production, including reporting, photography, layout, editing, and even delivering the paper.
In 2018, Kahrs went on to manage three Vermont weeklies at once: The Other Paper, the Shelburne News, and the Charlotte Observer, merging their operations into one central office.
A native of New York’s Hudson Valley, Kahrs is a graduate of the State University of New York at Purchase with a B.A. in literature. She also holds an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.
“I am proud to report I have never served on the staff of a newspaper conglomerate,” Kahrs said. She’s optimistic about the future of community journalism. Independent papers can make it, she said, “with help from a community of readers who are all in.”
The Vorse Fellowship will be an opportunity for Kahrs to gain mentoring experience. “I’m excited to help guide the passionate young writers and reporters at the Independent,” she said.
Thomas Lyons’s Gap Year
A native of Western Mass., Thomas Lyons comes to Provincetown from Deerfield. His interest in journalism began there, first writing for and later managing his high school’s satirical newspaper, The Scrawl. Without administrative oversight, he said, the paper’s staff had the freedom to express their views — but also the responsibility to understand and respond to reader feedback.
“I’m drawn to the Independent’s similar honesty, community support, and ‘unchained’ nature,” he said. “I’m looking forward to learning more about the region and the inner workings of local journalism.”
Besides editing The Scrawl, Lyons spent part of the summer of 2020 conducting archival research and interviews for Deerfield Magazine. His investigative project focused on the period of racial integration at his high school and examined the changes integration brought to the curriculum, policies, and culture of the school. Through this project and others, Lyons said, “I’m always trying to find out the ‘why’ of each story — the reasons that motivate the people involved and how that affects the present.”
Lyons had never visited the Outer Cape before arriving for his fellowship this week. In his first five hours in Provincetown, he got a library card, became a member of PAAM, started a Box Lunch punch card, and got very cold fingers walking Race Point Beach.
Outside the newsroom, Lyons spends time running, drumming, and reading, “though usually not all at once,” he said. During interviews, he mentioned that his Youth Conservation Corps work last summer included living in a tent through the rainiest July in Vermont history. He was promptly informed he’ll be organizing this winter’s staff hiking expeditions for the Independent.
The Vorse Fellowship marks the third leg of a “gap year” that Lyons started by working in a tempeh factory near his hometown. He then spent two months working odd jobs and living at a youth hostel in London, England. Next fall, he plans to start college, studying the humanities at Wesleyan University.