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Elizabeth Shepherd

Elizabeth Shepherd

In the time of coronavirus, trusted news sources are providing daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute updates about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like at least a few other islanders, I have digital subscriptions to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Seattle Times, and all of those papers have gone wall-to-wall with breaking news about the virus and its impacts.

But in all these heralded publications, there isn’t journalism of any kind about what is happening on the small island where we live. For that, you’ll need to turn to The Beachcomber.

I’ve been proud to work here these past two weeks.

It’s been a tumultuous time for our reporting staff, as we have worked to chronicle how the pandemic is impacting Vashon. Our weekly paper has become more like a daily overnight, as we post important updates to one-day-old stories while also penning hard new stories about sudden, almost unimaginable changes to our island.

Our stories are about what’s happening in our grocery stores, at our neighborhood health clinic, and other places of business. But what we wrote in last week’s paper will seem quaint, from another, faraway time, if you reread it today. The hallmark of this virus is rapid change, and we’re trying to keep up as best we can.

But one story we have yet to tell — and we hope to never have to tell it — is that our own local newspaper may be threatened as advertising revenues drop precipitously in this unprecedented time. As you may know, The Beachcomber is not an independent newspaper. It is part of a large company called Sound Publishing, which owns many small community newspapers in our region. They are all suddenly at risk.

Sound Publishing has made coronavirus stories free to read on all their papers’ websites — you won’t have to work around a paywall to get to these stories. The process of designating which articles are free now starts with the staff of each newspaper, and we are working hard to send those approvals through, story by story. Because suddenly, it seems, every story is a coronavirus story.

So in this time, we hope you will choose to support the very specific, local journalism we are doing at The Beachcomber.

In a sign of the times, two free weekly newspapers, Seattle’s The Stranger and the Portland Mercury, have announced the suspension of their print editions and laid off 18 reporters, each, not even two weeks into the public health crisis. Both papers are supported entirely by advertising revenue — coming in most cases from places of public gathering. We have those kinds of advertisers here at The Beachcomber, too.

There are huge issues regarding equity and privilege in this crisis, and we realize not everyone has the money — especially now — to sign up to receive the paper online. But at the same time, I would ask those who have the means to do so to digitally subscribe to the paper, so we can continue to bring Vashon-specific stories about this crisis to you.

All-digital access is $1 for four weeks, after which it goes for $39 a year — a real savings from buying the paper at the store 52 weeks of the year. Even with print delivery and digital, a subscription is $45 a year — less than the cost of plunking down a dollar at the store every week. And these days, suddenly we don’t want to touch paper money or go to the stores too often, do we? We want all our readers to stay home to read the paper now.

So please, consider it. In the meantime, we’ll keep bringing the news to you as fast as we can. And as always, if you have news tips, contact us at editor@vashonbeachcomber, reporter@vashonbeachcomber, calendar@vashonbeachcomber, and

Elizabeth Shepherd writes about the island people, the arts and coronavirus for The Beachcomber.

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