Last week I glossed over my ninth anniversary of owning the Methow Valley News because there were other things on my mind. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about what it means to have been here for nearly a decade. It took a lot of hard work by the newspaper’s staff, the goodwill and support of the community, the patience of friends and family who have had to endure this quixotic adventure along with me, and a bit of luck to keep moving forward over the inevitable bumps along the way.
Those included financial challenges exacerbated by a former employee’s misappropriation of funds; a serious illness that kept me in the hospital for a month (people still ask me about my health; I’m good, thank you); a couple of major wildfires that threatened the entire valley’s well-being; and more than a few times when I worried how I would get through the next few days. So far, I have. But there are still things to worry about. I spend a lot of time thinking about things we should be doing, and I get plenty of advice on that score — everyone thinks it just can’t be that hard to run a newspaper. (I do appreciate hearing from you, even the criticisms.)
What keeps me going, well past retirement age, is a commitment to providing the valley with the newspaper it deserves — and, frankly, the need to be doing something. I’m no good without deadline-driven tasks in front of me. Some of you have heard me say that if I thought of it as a job, I wouldn’t do it.
Before I purchased the News in 2011, I thought a lot about what that would mean — a purely speculative exercise since I really had no idea. For the sake of guidance, I came up with a mission statement and vision statement that I intended to define the newspaper’s operations and establish its commitment to this community. I reprint these every year to remind myself, my staff, our readers and our advertisers of these fundamental principles.
MVN Publishing will produce high-quality, reliable and practical print and online news and information products, including the Methow Valley News, related special publications and www.methowvalleynews.com, to fully inform not only valley residents but also readers and online users outside the area who have an interest the valley’s success and well-being.
• We will report on, participate in and celebrate the unique community of the Methow Valley with accuracy, integrity and civility, and be as transparent as possible about our operations and how we report the news.
• We will consistently provide high-quality, locally intensive journalism that serves the community by effectively telling the valley’s stories; building connections that help the valley’s residents make decisions about living, working, recreating and participating here; fostering involved citizenship that encourages a meaningful, productive civic life; and celebrating what is good and promising about the Methow Valley’s people, its environment and its future. We will use all available means to meet the valley’s information needs, including social networking tools to keep people stay current day in and day out. We will vigorously support and educate residents about open meetings and public access laws.
• We will be a force for effective communications that make a difference in the community’s well-being. We will define “local” not by geography but by what is important in residents’ lives and by exploring how those issues and events affect them. When appropriate, we will use the long-form narrative storytelling approach for issues, profiles and community character articles. We will reach beyond the valley with the power of what we do by setting standards for rural community journalism and being part of the redefinition of what it means to practice responsible journalism in this kind of setting.
• We will be a responsible employer and will operate a successful business that helps provide livelihoods for local residents by being innovative and flexible to create opportunities for growth. We will lay a long-lasting foundation for local journalism in the valley. We will become participants in, not just observers of, the greater community and its various interests and forces for change.
In retrospect, those statements seem a little verbose and high-falutin’, but the fundamentals still apply. Which is good, because I don’t know how to do it any other way.