For the past 18 weeks here at The Beachcomber, we’ve had the great fortune to have local artist Steffon Moody as our political cartoonist. Week after week, we’ve been wowed by his beautifully drawn and witty takes on national politics and other important issues of our troubled times.
Sometimes, Moody’s cartoons have pushed readers’ buttons, as political cartoons are wont to do.
But this week, his cartoon on these pages, “The Recipe,” pushed ours. It’s about the news — our business here at The Beachcomber — and the perception that there are two sides to the news: one left, one right, with both catering to and perpetuating bias and basically just being no damn good.
It’s true that broadcast media in particular reflects the divisiveness of our culture now more than ever. Some say that the elimination of the United States Federal Communications Commission Fairness Doctrine — which was in effect from 1949 to 1989 — has led to the sensational shout-fests we all see on cable news today. Completely alternate universes of news coverage exist on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. Take your pick, but don’t expect anchors, as they were at least told to do under the Fairness Doctrine, to present news in a way that exposes their viewers to a diversity of viewpoints.
But despite how easy it is to blame these kinds of messengers, actual news, reported by real journalists, is more important than ever.
We found that out this week, with bombshell reporting from The New York Times, a trusted news source that has been around since 1851.
The rockstar journalists there got Trump’s tax returns, and they were just as shocking as many suspected they would be after years of the president refusing to hand them over to the American people, the courts, and Congress. It took the Gray Lady to finally deliver the goods, except there was nothing good about it. The guy paid $750 in federal income taxes both in 2016 and 2017 and has claimed staggering losses that suggest his business empire is truly a house of cards.
We need to know this kind of stuff, especially, right before the election, right? And apparently, no one is left to deliver it to us except the free press.
Of course, here at The Beachcomber, we’re running a different kind of news empire. Our task is to report the news of one specific small island community, and each week during this dreadful year of 2020, we’ve been trying very hard to do just that.
It isn’t easy — because unlike the news outlets Moody lambastes in his cartoon, showers of dollars aren’t raining down on our enterprise.
Economic stresses from the pandemic have reduced our newsroom staff to two part-time reporters, who write almost all the news stories, manage the editorial pages (yes, those same reporters must vet all letters to the editor and solicit thoughtful commentaries each week for our opinion pages, and yes, take turns writing editorials). Our publisher and administrative coordinator, in the front office, are just as busy working with our advertisers, keeping the books, interfacing with the paper’s corporate office, and making sure subscribers get their papers delivered on time.
A thousand things can go wrong with every issue of the paper, and we are all keenly aware that every time we make a mistake at The Beachcomber, it is seen by all our own friends and neighbors.
But we hope our readers know how much we care. We hope our readers know how often we burn the midnight oil to bring them important news, to hold our public institutions accountable, and tell stories about the good people of this island.
Our goal in this time is to reflect the indomitable spirit of our community and keep islanders apprised of everything they need to know in a time when the rug just keeps being pulled out from under us by the pandemic, by smoke, by civil unrest and a deeply divided body politic. We want to still be standing here, telling the story of this island, when this time finally and mercifully passes. But in the meantime, we will just keep writing it all down, week after week, because it is so important what happens on Vashon right now. This is our home.
We are so grateful to our contributors including the Emergency Operations Center, which provides a weekly update, always to be found on page 8 of our paper. Read it: it could help you put a few dollars back in your pockets, or find the help you need, or even keep you alive in these hard times.
And if want to take us to task over a typo or a small mistake, or even if you want to question our news judgment, go ahead. We always want to be better. Believe it or not, we’re doing this for you.
That’s our bias here at The Beachcomber.