Big things happen in our small town, week after week

This is the main function of hyper-local journalism — to provide information that guides citizens in helping to make their hometowns better.

Sometimes, it can be a useful exercise to open up The Beachcomber and imagine you have just arrived in our town, fresh off the ferry boat.

What would you learn about Vashon, from reading these pages?

You’d learn that we face challenges — that our post office still suffers from serious staffing shortages, for instance, but last week, some islanders stepped up to say they’d like to work there.

You’d also learn that the Vashon Park District — a small agency tasked with managing 18 beautiful parks and facilities on Vashon, as well as providing a wide range of programs that greatly benefit islanders, has been underfunded in recent years for a variety of complex reasons, and will soon ask voters to increase its revenue in a substantive way.

But in pursuing The Beachcomber — if you had never seen it before, or visited Vashon — the first thing that might strike you, of course, is the fact that our small town even has a local newspaper, filled with content thoughtfully written by islanders, that is exclusively about our community.

Since 2005, more than 2,500 local newspapers have been shuttered in the United States, and many of those remaining are endangered — an incalculable loss, considering what well-functioning local newspapers provide: a framework of community and a guide to help citizens make good decisions.

Think about it: your vote for school board members, or your understanding of the details of levy measures for local taxing districts, could well have a more immediate impact on your day-to-day life than your votes in national and even state elections.

This is the main function of hyper-local journalism — to provide information that guides citizens in helping to make their hometowns better.

And so, we are grateful that despite our own ongoing staffing challenges at The Beachcomber, this week’s edition is filled with local voices, telling stories that would shine a light, for any newcomer to Vashon, about what kind of town this is.

This issue of the paper boasts a wealth of bylines.

Freelance reporter Savannah Butcher — who only last year served as the managing editor of Vashon High School’s stellar student newspaper, the Riptide, and is now a college student studying journalism — catches islanders up, on page 1 of this week’s paper, with fast-paced improvements to our fire district under the leadership of its new chief, Matt Vinci.

On page 7, Adrianne Williams, the parent of an elementary school student at Chautauqua Elementary School, details an impressive curriculum for third-graders at the school, which aims to instill in students the belief that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

And on page 9, yet another talented and generous islander, Marya Purrington, has written a thoughtful news obituary for educator Renae Thomas Taylor — telling the story of Taylor’s life from beginning to end, and the way she made a difference on Vashon.

These two stories — in addition to sports coverage contributed by local coaches on page 11 — would let anyone who just arrived on Vashon, and wondered what might be gleaned about the island from looking at the local newspaper, that there are many people here who care deeply about the island’s youth.

Still more commentaries on this page — one by Kevin Jones and Virginia Lohr, and another by Cindy Hoyt, respectively, would tell you two more things about Vashon: that we are a community of progressive activists, and that … well, we’re also kind of old, and also pretty funny.

But wait, there’s more.

Our newspaper, after all, also boasts an arts section — which this week is as full as ever with stories about the vibrant cultural life of the island.

An informed community is a healthy community, and so this week’s paper, as always, includes important public health information from VashonBePrepared.

A great town deserves a great newspaper — and this week, at least, we believe our newspaper has been made great by all these contributions by its citizens.

Do you have a story to tell, an issue to explore, a letter to write? We welcome and value your feedback and contributions, to help us keep producing a rough draft of Vashon’s history and its values, week after week, that is filled with Vashon voices.