How do you measure the meaning of six years? I’ve been thinking about that as the sixth anniversary of the day I took over ownership of the Methow Valley News — July 4, 2011, what I call my “personal Independence Day” — approached this week.
Well, it’s 312 issues published, a like number of columns and editorials written, close to 5,000 newspaper pages (not including our special publications) produced, hundreds of meetings attended, stories written and photographs taken — and I don’t even want to think of how many hours devoted to this job. If you are the publisher, as a practical matter you are never not working as long as you are in the valley.
My old Nissan Pathfinder is beyond 220,000 miles, not including the period when the odometer and other dashboard electronics went haywire, an average of more than 20,000 miles a year, most of it work-related.
As my column title has always suggested, I don’t regret any of the 2,100-plus days devoted to this community. I still have enthusiasm for covering the people, issues, seasonal rhythms, quirky character and enduring resilience of the Methow Valley. I continue to learn something almost daily, and meet interesting people who have chosen to grace this valley. I never get over the pride and gratification I feel every Wednesday when the paper arrives from the printer.
Living here has a way of reawakening possibilities. I rediscovered a long-dormant interest in community theater, and have been privileged to be part of The Merc Playhouse “family” of actors, directors and contributors. (Shameless promotion follows: Please come and see “The Real Inspector Hound” at The Merc beginning July 27. I’m in the cast, but that’s not the reason to attend. It will be a lot of fun for the audience and the actors).
It hasn’t always been easy. We face constant financial pressures (independently owned small town newspapers are somewhat insulated from but not entirely immune to national trends). No matter what we do, there will always be gripes (that’s the journalist’s life). My staff and I lived through the same natural disasters that everyone else in the valley experienced, all the while working untold hours covering the news and keeping information current on our website and Facebook page.
I won’t revisit my personal story, but it was a huge leap of faith for me to take this on. However, I never doubted for a moment that it would be worth the risks and challenges. As we send this paper to press on Monday (July 3), I’m planning to spend the Fourth of July as I have every year since 2011 — standing on Glover Street, watching the parade go by. It’s symbolic reassurance that I made the right choice.
To get a sense of how much things have changed, and how much they have stayed the same, I looked up the Methow Valley News headlines from the week of July 4 since 2011:
2016: Juvenile facilities, programs will stay in Okanogan County; Salvaging road kill is legal starting this week; Lawsuit filed by insurance companies seeks damages related to 2014 Rising Eagle Road Fire; Farm Bureau charges ROC with campaign violations.
2015: Record low river levels bad for irrigators, fish; Gov. Inslee declares emergency conditions across state; Electric co-op proposes three-year rate plan; Ice rink expansion underway, volunteers needed; Cinder getting comfortable in the wild after her release.
2014: Winthrop to set conditions on first marijuana retail store; Groundwater impacts of copper exploration studied; Estes steps down from [Twisp] town council; Flagg Mountain cabin case back in Superior Court next week.
2013: Sharp eyes in the woods: citizens trained to be on lookout for lawbreakers; State ATV bill wins last-minute approval; First day of school: New superintendent gets his bearings; State audit cites [Three Rivers] hospital’s financial challenges.
2102: BBC film on Lookout Pack airs Saturday; Davis Lake project may have many beneficiaries; Biking for business pays off; Twisp Town Hall repairs underway.
2011: Vandals hit Methow Arts offices, artwork; LBHS students excel on state tests; State ponders building demolitions; Forest Service seeks federal money for spring road damage; First grizzly bear sighting in 15 years in North Cascades National Park.
That’s just a sampling of recent history. It’s all gone by very quickly, and I don’t expect the pace to slow anytime soon.