The first journalism job I ever had was at the Port Orchard Independent, just across the water from West Seattle.
We had a newsroom of five people, including our editor. While I was there, I got curious about a man who was buying up property along the city’s downtown core. Candidates for mayor had cited him as an outsider buying up their community for profit (tax write-offs, they had said many times over) and a few readers questioned whether the properties were a front operation for terrorism (because he had brown skin, I guess).
I did what any reporter would do. I looked up all the properties he owned (about a third of the property abutting the city’s main street) and I tracked him down until I got a phone interview. He studied biologic diseases, had gotten quite wealthy with a company doing the same and was investing in real estate.
I remember a mayoral candidate reiterating these facts to me with a “I heard somewhere...” Of course he had. He heard it from our newspaper.
I wasn’t able to do that story on my own. It happened because we had four reporters covering four different beats in that small town. It happened because we had the capacity to do the work that needed to be done.
Today, that newsroom is much smaller than it was. As I left, my position was eliminated. It happened again at the Skagit Valley Herald, which has gone from three photographers to two, three sports writers to two and seven reporters to five since 2008.
And it just continues: The Seattle Times dropped 23 staffers in January. The Issaquah Press closes after a century later this month. But there’s hope.
People are starting to act like the news really matters again, after an election season in which completely fabricated stories made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter alongside real, vital journalism. People are realizing what we’ve lost with the diminishing media landscape.
The Washington Post is hiring more journalists, and The New York Times saw a spike in subscriptions after the election. I want to see similar results on a local level.
While we have some great journalists working here, we continue to face many losses.
At Real Change, we’re moving forward with the belief that our work is more important than ever.
Ashley Archibald is filing public records requests, watchdogging public meetings and trying to unravel the complicated civil life and translate it for you, our readers.
In this issue, she highlights the struggles low-power FM stations have had getting their broadcasts on the airwaves.
Lisa Edge is elevating the voices and work of artists and change-makers in our midst, all while making sure you see our work on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. In this issue, she explores an exhibit at the Northwest African American Museum showing the artifacts of a family in the Central District, a neighborhood that continues to face gentrification.
Jon Williams, bringing 35 years of experience to this newsroom, continues to put together the pages you’re reading now with the most thoughtful consideration. If only you knew what went into each illustration, photograph, font and headline. This issue, Jon is unveiling some design changes to the newspaper, including new fonts for our headlines and captions. I think you’ll find the page more open and and inviting than ever before.
And that’s just our permanent staff. Our intern, Jason Bono, is diving headfirst into the world of activism and arts. We have an army of volunteer photographers providing quality imagery to our stories. And then there are our columnists, including Hanna Brooks Olsen of Seattlish, Gui Jean-Paul Chevalier and Rev. Rich Lang (Welcome back, Rich!).
Meeting with our directors earlier this year, I felt the strongest sense that everyone sees journalism as an important part of our work heading forward. I know they’re supporting us. I am grateful for your support, too.