Here's What I Think About That

Naturally Local


It’s daylight and the towhees are here again. For the last six weeks the pair has shown up every morning outside our bedroom window to perch on the deck railing and sing for breakfast. Mr. and Mrs. make a most handsome couple, but are terrible singers. We start the coffee first before grabbing a handful of shelled sunflower seeds to leave on the deck railing for our neighbors. If we forget, they throw themselves into the windows, presumably to get our attention. We are well trained.

I moved my desk a few months ago from one end of the house to the other, and opened the window to a new world. From this perch I can see directly into the middle and upper tree canopy. Cedar, Douglas fir, big leaf maple, alder and hazelnut grow from the depths of the gully where a spring-fed stream meanders below.

The gully is flanked by fields and open space where raptors soar in search of prey and dive to grab lunch.   

The neighborhood is bustling. Summer guests began arriving weeks ago. A flock of cedar waxwings, typically only seen through binoculars, flew in and frolicked before my own eyes. My head spun in another direction when I spotted a bright yellow body framed by black wings and tail feathers, but it was his brilliant scarlet hood that gave him away. A male western tanager had arrived, perhaps the most colorful and beautiful songbird to breed in these parts. (There’s one on the cover.)

The quiet of an unusually warm afternoon suddenly erupts into a flying circus with dozens of swallows riding currents of moist air filled with bugs.

A chickadee flies in through an open door, a few feet from where I sit typing, and lands on the corner of my desk mere inches away from my keyboard. It was as if the little bird snuck in to escape the crazy commotion of the swallows feasting outside. Neither of us moves; if I grab my phone for a picture he’ll be gone. And in the second it took to have that thought, the chickadee did a little pirouette and flew out the same direction from whence he came.

The trees, the water, the birds, were always here.

A year and half of Covid has changed me. I slowly began to see things differently, not all of it pleasant. But I found strength in this community as it struggled to adapt to unforeseen changes to practically every aspect of our lives. We didn’t have to be sick with Covid to be affected. We persevered together.

While seasonal changes became a simple focus to ground myself in time, it is the newspaper I go back to in order to remember what transpired and how we felt about it all as it happened.

Local journalism is in serious trouble nationwide and that spells trouble for democracy. Within the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, of which Key Peninsula News is a member, 13 local newspapers closed for good over the last year. For an industry already struggling with a loss of advertising revenue due to the internet and social media, Covid was the final blow.

But what exactly does “local journalism” mean? Pierce County is big and within it are many cities, each with its own unique flavor. In bygone days, perhaps a single robust newspaper could cover it all, but I don’t believe that model works today. The fact that so many newspapers across the country faced bankruptcy and are now owned by hedge funds is not a good sign for independent journalism.

Local news helps provide a mirror in which we hope the community can see itself, advocate for its needs, and celebrate the place and the people who make this home. Over the last year, you proved just how much it matters.

While I once felt confined by the idea that Key Peninsula News focused solely on the Key Peninsula, in the last few years I have come to appreciate that strong focus is in fact a big part of its strength.

We are extraordinarily fortunate to have the support of advertisers and donors who live and work in this community and who believe in the power of delivering local news to reach everyone – without requiring a paid subscription to get it. You won’t run into a paywall at either. Unlike others, we believe local news empowers our community to do great things.

We’re proud to announce that the Key Peninsula News team is 100% vaccinated. By the time you have this paper in hand, we will have enjoyed our first in-person staff meeting in 15 months. As things begin to reopen you can count on your very own local news team being right alongside you.