This year, March brings not just the welcome warmth and color of spring, but also a new voice to the island as The Beachcomber welcomed Paul Rowley to its staff on March 6.
Rowley, 23, fills the full-time reporter position left vacant when Susan Riemer took the helm as editor in January.
“We’re really pleased he’s here. He’s already an excellent addition to our staff,” Riemer said.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rowley graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston in 2016, with a degree in English literature and writing. After a stint tutoring English for a year with AmeriCorps in Connecticut, Rowley took a job as a government reporter for the British Virgin Islands (BVI) Beacon newspaper in Road Town, on the island of Tortola.
One month later, he found himself in a hurricane shelter riding out the fury of Hurricane Irma.
“My colleagues and I at the paper were just going to hang tight in an apartment, we didn’t think it was going to be that bad,” he noted. “All of the locals were telling us not to worry. At the last minute, I decided to go to spend the night at the shelter so I could document that experience for the paper. And then it hit.”
Rowley lost his apartment, and most of the belongings he had there. The apartment where his co-workers stayed blew apart in the category 5 storm, but Rowley said that all of his work mates survived.
Describing the aftermath as “worse than the storm,” Rowley said the Beacon shut down, and he was evacuated after a week on the devastated island to Puerto Rico initially, with Hurricane Maria hot on his heels.
While the BVI Beacon had promised to bring him back once they were able, after six months back in Massachusetts with no word from the recovering British territory, Rowley accepted the position with The Beachcomber — only to receive a call the following day from his former editor.
The BVI Beacon’s loss is Vashon’s gain as Rowley, who has a keen interest in small community news, settles in to a different kind of island life here in the Pacific Northwest.