As usual, National Newspaper Week snuck up on me while I was working on another local newspaper week, this one in particular. The 2019 observance — Oct. 6–12 — marks the 79th annual National Newspaper Week, an admittedly self-congratulatory recognition of the service of newspapers and their employees across North America.
There is a much to be said about the importance of newspapers in American civic life, even amid tectonic shifts within the industry. The folks who organize National Newspaper Week have assembled a lot of supportive material and rather than reprint it, I would encourage you to visit the site yourself: www.nationalnewspaperweek.com. Like most industries, it’s up to our industry organizations to promote what we do. But self-recognition only goes so far. You also have to deliver on whatever promises you make to your customers.
We are encouraged to localize the Newspaper Week materials by talking about such things as our duties as government watchdog, role as a community forum and coverage of community events, publication of timely public notices, etc. So there, I sort of talked about them, which is about all I have time for this week because we are busy fulfilling those roles for our deserving readers. I think we accomplish more by doing our jobs well, issue after issue, and creating that expectation in the community. We put a lot of thought, energy and professional pride into what we do.
Coincidentally, I’ll be attending the 132nd annual convention of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA) this week, Thursday through Saturday. WNPA’s membership includes most weekly newspapers in the state, a few small dailies, and several journalism-related organizations. It’s a matter of pride that the Methow Valley News has been around for 116 of those 132 years.
While the program schedule is meant to help us all do our jobs better and produce successful newspapers, the real treat for me is talking with other publishers and editors from around the state, many of whom I’ve gotten to know well over the years. I had the privilege to be president of WNPA for a couple of years and now serve as president of the nonprofit WNPA Foundation, which raises money for journalism internships.
We’ll be busy taking in the official and unofficial activities. Seminar topics include the keynote, “satisfying today’s reader,” dealing with the challenges of Facebook and Google, how to write better personality profiles, improving advertising and editorial design, developing a strong editorial voice, managing and mining election data, and taking better photographs. We’ll also hear from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. Saturday night, we’ll learn who the winners of our “Better Newspaper Contest” are in a variety of news, advertising and photography categories. We’ll celebrate our awards for a few minutes, then get back to thinking about next week, and the week after that.
We have another gratifying batch of letters to the editor this week, but with less room available than in the previous issue we weren’t quite able to accommodate them all. Usually we print letters on a first-come, first-served basis. However, up to Election Day we’re prioritizing letters about elections or current topics that require public attention.
In the coming weeks we’ll carve out more space so we can print as many letters as possible before ballots are mailed to voters on Oct. 18. We’re also aiming to complete our coverage of local races and issues by the Oct. 16 newspaper. Of course, because voters have until Nov. 5 to make up their minds, we’ll continue publishing election-related letters through the issue of Oct. 30. If you wrote a letter that was published in September, you’re allowed another one in October.
Some local candidates are the subject of many letters, others haven’t been mentioned at all. I know a few people will wallow in their conspiracy theories to fit their own views, but I can assure you that we are publishing every local letter that fits our criteria (please remember the 350-word limit), and not favoring anyone.
I’m pleased that so many people getting involved. I’m seeing letters from contributors I know have never written before, or haven’t written for a long time. The letters we’re receiving are, by and large, passionate, articulate and thoughtful. I think that says something about this community.