Betty Smith-Mastaler

Producer, VPR Commentary Series/Reporter

Betty was and still is VPR's first full time employee, hired in 1976 to handle a variety of administrative aspects. Once the station began broadcasting in 1977, she also served as an on-air host.

Comfortable both on-air and behind the scenes, Betty produces the VPR commentary series and reports on cultural events across the region. She's based in VPR's Norwich studio.

Prior to joining VPR, Betty was a local AM radio personality and actress.

Ways to Connect

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl

A few years ago, I arrived at church on a December Sunday morning to find a substitute pastor who nervously smiled and introduced herself. She invited the kids to the front before sending them to church school, and as the regular copastors normally would, asked them a few seemingly softball questions.

Photograph courtesy of Willem Lange / via The Valley News

VPR has learned of the passing of Ida Lange, wife of many years to long-time commentator Willem Lange, who’s written a remembrance of her that appears in today’s Valley News.

Listeners may remember that Ida made frequent appearances in Willem’s columns and commentaries, but never by her given name.

They say truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But this doesn’t mean certain truths aren’t verifiable. Much depends on the granularity and scope of a statement.

Artwork by Joanna Bodenweber

On Saturday, June 10 at 11 a.m. VPR hosted a new, streamlined version of the annual Commentator Brunch at our recently expanded Colchester facility on the theme: SLEUTH! UNCOVERING THE TRUTH!


If you're interested in submitting possible commentaries to VPR, here's what you need to know:

For many years, Ruth Page, with her husband, Proctor Page, owned and published the Suburban List, a Chittenden County weekly newspaper. Later, Page became editor of National Gardening Magazine, which led to a nationally-syndicated public radio program, "Ruth Page's Gardening Journal," which in turn led to a book.

I grew up in a Pennsylvania train town where I literally got a front row seat on the sad decline of passenger rail travel. Fast forward to the 1980’s when I was a young mother in New England. I wanted my kids to know what railroads were all about, since by then they had largely become relics in children’s books.

If you count years, the Commentator Brunch just reached its 10th anniversary.

Herb Swanson /

For the last nine years, VPR has invited 25 or so of the most active commentators in the year just past to an annual Commentator Brunch event for Broadcasters Club members.

Paul Harrington

As the Commentary Producer at VPR, I help to bring public voices to the airways through essays that we hope will have special meaning for you. For five years the voice of Elaine Harrington was among those voices.

Ross Mantle

All this week, we're exploring the novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. The book is the Vermont Humanities Council's pick for Vermont Reads, the statewide community reading program.

At the heart of the book is Haroun, who tries to help his famous story-telling father, Rashid, who loses his "gift for gab" after his wife Soraya runs away with their neighbor, Mr. Sengupta.

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

Each year, VPR collaborates with the Vermont Humanities Council for "Vermont Reads," a statewide reading program. This year, people around Vermont are reading and discussing Haroun and the Sea of Stories by acclaimed author Salman Rushdie.

VPR's annual Commentator Brunch event for our Broadcasters Club members was held on Saturday, May 3, at The Essex Resort and Spa. At this event, VPR commentators give very brief – 2 minute – readings on a common theme: "In Plain Sight."  

The Commentator Brunch events are popular with staff, commentators, listeners and guests; audiences average around 200 people. The voices and perspectives heard at the brunch are both diverse and entertaining.  


This week we’ve been exploring themes from the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. The novel is this year’s pick for the Vermont Humanities Council’s state-wide reading program, Vermont Reads.

In the book, the protagonist August Pullman is facing the daunting prospect of starting fifth grade after being homeschooled. But his challenges are amplified, because he looks very different from everyone else.

Excerpt: If It's Okay For Me To Ask

Random House

Each year, VPR partners with the Vermont Humanities Council to present Vermont Reads, a state-wide community reading program.

This year’s selection is Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. The book follows fifth-grader August Pullman as he enters middle school after previously being homeschooled by his Mom. Auggie, as his family calls him, was born with a genetic disorder that has left him with severe facial deformities.

In recognition of Women's History Month, VPR again collaborated with the Vermont Commission on Women in March, 2014, to present a series of stories about women from our region who achieved significant success in the arts.

We heard from women who are notable in their own right about innovators and trail blazers in the fine arts, from writers to painters, and designers to photographers.


At this year's VPR's annual Commentators Brunch event for our Broadcasters Club members, VPR commentators gave brief readings on the common theme, "Lost And Found". This prompted some to reflect on surprising discoveries and others to consider missed opportunities and times past.

The Commentators Brunch events are popular with staff, commentators, listeners, and guests; audiences average around 200 people. The voices and perspectives heard at the Brunch are both diverse and entertaining.

Kingdom County Productions

In the summer of 2012, documentary filmmaker Bess O'Brien invited producer Erica Heilman to conduct a series of  workshops in St. Albans in which various artists encouraged people recovering from opiate addiction to document their experience in words and images.

Steven Kovich

The former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins wrote that high school is “all too often the place where poetry goes to die.” He set out on a mission to collect short, clear, contemporary poems, with the idea that teachers could read one per day, for the 180 day school year, and allow students to simply hear and absorb the poetry, with no discussion, explication or quizzes.