For more than a century, the Woods family name has been synonymous with excellent journalism, community service and civic involvement in north central Washington. Wilfred R. “Wilf” Woods, former editor and publisher of the family-owned Wenatchee World, died last week at the age of 97 — leaving an extraordinary personal and professional legacy to the region.
The endless curiosity and keen insights reflected in his short but engaging columns kept us entertained long after he turned over the reins of newspaper leadership to his son Rufus in 1997.
Woods’ range of interests spread far beyond newspapering to include art, music, theater, history, travel, outdoor recreation, politics and science, according to his obituary in the World. The enthusiasm and energy he brought to any topic or activity were ingrained in his personality.
Woods was born into a newspaper family, which doesn’t necessarily dictate a newspaper career — but he seemed destined for it from childhood. His father Rufus Woods (after whom the lake is named) bought the World in 1907, and Wilfred eventually inherited the paper in 1950 when his father died. He spent the next 47 years at the helm.
Family-owned newspapers used to be a lot more common around the country, before mergers and big conglomerates began to take a toll on the most-personal brand of community journalism. It’s not easy to withstand marketplace pressures, and succeeding generations may not have the interest or ability to keep the operation going. Economies of scale may force smaller papers or companies into contemplating a sale or merger.
I’ve worked for family-owned publishing companies in Oregon, Washington, Minneapolis, Chicago and Baltimore, and can attest to what works and what doesn’t when the torch is passed. Some of them are now far removed from the family ownership structure, and they don’t seem to be better for it.
I’m speaking from a journalistic point of view when I say that this region is fortunate to be served by a family-owned newspaper whose leadership cares passionately about what happens in its circulation area. As the sole owner of a much smaller operation I appreciate the challenges. Just as importantly, the World has been an involved and influential citizen of north central Washington. Wilf Woods believed that good newspapering and meaningful community presence were inseparably woven together. He spent a lifetime proving that formula could work.
Get used to it
Around the country, congressional leaders are on notice: You are being held accountable for what happens in the Trump administration, and will be asked to explain yourself and your decision-making.
One example of that expectation of accountability occurred last week when more than 140 people from around Okanogan County traveled to Omak to express their concerns about national issues, and to ask 4th District Congressman Dan Newhouse’s staff when he might be available in person for a town-hall style meeting.
The Okanogan County citizens — including many from the Methow Valley — took time out of their lives to make a concerted show of interest in matters that could affect thousands of regional residents.
They have a right to expect answers. Foremost among their concerns is the fate of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which will affect many thousands of 4th District residents. The Republicans controlling Congress have no idea what they will come up with, other than to promise it will be better. They have no credibility on that point.
Other issues loom. Some in Congress are ramping up plans to undermine Social Security and Medicare programs, with life-threatening implications for many Americans. It’s fair to ask Newhouse what he thinks about that. Also out there in the near term: immigration, federal land policies, national security, environmental challenges including climate change. There will be more, if the administration’s early machinations are any indicator.
Representatives and Senators have been facing some tough, demanding crowds lately when returning home. But that’s they signed on for — to hear and represent all their constituents, and to answer the hard questions about policies that portend dramatic changes in all our lives.