The season to be thankful and generous in spirit is just around the bend. It comes not a moment too soon. It’s finally time to snuggle up inside after a dry summer that lasted longer than any in recent memory.
In holiday preparation some years back, we installed an inexpensive mounting system to suspend 12 feet of wire on a barren hallway to display some textiles and liven up the place. Months later, in an office cleaning blitz, my husband took on a serious tone when he asked, “What about all these stacks of old newspapers?”
It was embarrassing to realize how many I had accumulated. I like the feel of paper, at least that’s my excuse, even though I know it’s faster to look at previous editions that go back decades on our website. I knew what to do next.
One by one, I hung each print edition on the wire in the hallway, beginning with our first coverage of COVID-19. At one point, we were able to stand back and see a whole year of front pages in full. That’s no longer the case now.
I was stunned looking again at June and July 2020 at front page stories about friends deeply involved in our community who died tragically and unexpectedly. Seeing all the papers hung in a row, slowly gazing from the beginning to where we are now took my breath away.
Reporting during these Covid years has been hard — harder than anything I have ever done in my life. But I am not alone. Here come those tears again.
We have the most incredibly devoted staff and team of contributing writers, photographers and proofers, some of whom put the paper ahead of their private lives time and time again because they believe in what we do. We enjoy a team of exceptional, award-winning talent that continues to attract more of the same into our fold.
And it’s not just our production team that keeps us going. Deanna Hunter is arguably the best sales rep we have ever had. Our bookkeeper, Linda Grubaugh, is top notch and I don’t know what we would have done without their collective diligence to keep the money coming in.
We have a largely unsung distribution team that rolls with the punches and gets the job done even when delivery dates and times have been disrupted. They care about getting the paper into the hands of the community that supports it all one way or another.
Last summer, I took a call from an out-of-state businesswoman who by chance picked up a copy of our paper at a small market while visiting Gig Harbor. She took it home and read it front to back. “I absolutely love your paper and I want to know more — a lot more.”
The situation she described in her community may sound familiar. Located in a rural area, ripe with recreational opportunities, surrounded by towering conifers flanked by mountain views and shoreline, the population is a mix of pioneer stock, hard-working, off-the-grid semi-recluses and transplants with a taste for independence. In good weather, the drive into the city took under an hour from the loose collection of unincorporated “small towns” commonly referred to as one.
Like the Key Peninsula, their location offered the best of both worlds.
But they had a real problem.
The city daily paper, once widely read and trusted, suffered from dried up revenue streams, the results of a highly competitive internet. Layoffs ensued. Once acquired by a hedge fund, reporting staff dwindled further, as did the number of pages.
Nobody was going to council meetings, keeping an eye on local county government. Nobody attended school board or fire commissioner meetings, and nobody knew what was going on in the land use department.
The basic watchdog functions and unbiased reporting of quality journalism all but vanished.
By luck, a neighbor discovered a land use deal quietly making its way through the county planning process. The neighbor asked around, “Have you heard anything about this? It seems impossible, can they really do this?”
Speculative developers had been working behind the scenes to effect changes to local regulations that would radically change the nature and very character of the community. If it went through as planned, it stood to more than double the buildable land and forever change their way of life.
Thanks to the small group I met with via Zoom, they were able to halt the process, at least temporarily. But they also came to understand the importance of independent local journalism. What they wanted to learn from us was how to start a local nonprofit newspaper like the one you hold in your hands.
It’s no secret that without financial support through donations from readers like you, we would cease to exist. The community is part of our team. Together we make it happen month after month.
The time to vote is here. The campaign season has been marked by dehumanizing one another with convenient labels. That is a well-worn and dangerous path. It’s easy to get swept up by heated rhetoric designed solely to divide rather than solve anything. When that happens, we ultimately lose some of our own humanity ourselves, making it more difficult to change the course to a better path.
But the election will soon be over. Until then, let us remember to be grateful for what we have.
Endless political vitriol robs us of our ability to remember much less comprehend that life is complex, rich with diversity, and infinitely interconnected.
In the end, it’s connection that matters most of all.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS