This week’s Beachcomber covers its usual mix of urgent community news as well as other significant happenings in our community.
But in preparing these opinion pages of our newspaper, I was especially struck by the deeper meanings and messages embedded in profound commentaries by Amanda Knox and Scott Durkee.
Reading their beautiful contributions gave me the gift of being able to see past the Sturm and Drang of daily life and reflect on the fleeting, immeasurable beauty that we all have the chance to hold in our hearts every day.
In times of transition, in beginnings and endings, our minds can better grasp these deeper truths.
For me, it’s one of those moments of change, right now, as I will pass the torch of being the editor of The Beachcomber to Alex Bruell in two short weeks, and step back into a part-time reporter’s role.
The newspaper is in good hands, and I look forward to having a bit less stress in my life, to be completely honest.
Yet, I feel some sadness too: it has been one of the greatest surprises and challenges of my life to find myself at the helm of this newspaper, during a time of real turmoil in our community.
These are shelves behind my desk in the newsroom that hold four fat stacks of annual archives — some of them already yellowing — of the newspaper’s 2020-2023 editions: 193 issues in all.
For the first 10 weeks of 2020, our newspaper had four staff members, as it had always had since I started working there in 2008: two full-timers, and two-part-timers.
I was one of the part-timers: the happy-go-lucky arts editor, popping in for 15 hours a week while also working a full-time job in the arts, directing the youth programs of Northwest Film Forum, in Seattle.
But that all changed on March 25, 2020, when I was furloughed from The Beachcomber along with three other people in the newsroom. Only reporter Paul Rowley was left, working 24 hours a week.
“I’ll help you, Paul,” I told him on the phone. “I will help you every week ‘till they bring me back.”
I doubled down on my best journalistic instincts at that time, which from the start, as an untrained reporter, included mimicry — studying the form and structure of newspapers and news stories and reading about how journalists got their stories.
I peppered my mentors with questions, cultivated good sources, and wooed talented contributors.
But more importantly, I also leaned hard into my arts training. After all, the thing I had been writing down as my profession, on various forms over the years, was “curator.”
Maybe I could “curate” our local newspaper, I thought.
It’s a bit of an overused word now, but that’s what I did in my career in the arts — I was a person who sifted through things, thoughtfully selecting and organizing them into some larger presentations.
A fine thing to call myself, I thought — but also, I have to admit, an egotistical choice, given that the word is derived from “curat, a person charged with the care of souls, a parish priest.”
Oh well — we curators believe our ability to compile content can be life-changing, I guess.
But this is what I was offering to help Paul with in late March of 2020.
I had a vision of a newspaper as a community gathering place during the COVID crisis, a way to connect and contribute and yes, even, cure souls, in a time when we all faced a dire threat and could not come together as we always had in the past.
I believed then, and I believe now, that our local newspaper could help save Vashon, week after week after week.
Thank you, dear readers, for valuing our local newspaper, and for your support of me as I served as this paper’s editor.
It’s been my honor. But long before I got here, and long after I leave, I know this paper will continue to lay down a rough draft of history, week after week, about our beloved island community.
And as Amanda and Scott have reminded us so vividly in their commentaries: it’s the places and people we love that matter most in our lives.
— Elizabeth Shepherd, Editor