During pandemic, newspapers are still essential

  • Thursday, March 26, 2020 10:15am
  • Opinion

This past Tuesday, in the midst of putting this edition to press, The Beachcomber staff learned some disheartening news: We will be furloughed.

We will still be employees of our parent company, Sound Publishing, but we will be reduced to a skeleton crew and we won’t be working full-time. The same will be true for employees at all other Sound publications in our region.

And although the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber is able to print its March 26 and April 2 editions, it remains to be seen whether we will be printing in the near future.

The announcement comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has, of course, not only shaken the Puget Sound region from a health care standpoint, but from an economic one as well.

In a highly digitized era, newspapers, in general, have long struggled to keep up revenue, and this pandemic — which came so suddenly — doesn’t help the industry’s situation. Sound Publishing papers depend on advertising revenue that has plummeted in recent weeks.

You probably have questions for us about what The Beachcomber’s future is at this point. To tell you the truth, there’s a lot we don’t know, either. We just found out, and as this editorial is being written we are also doing what we’ve always done — what is in the DNA of newspaper people everywhere — we’re getting the paper out on time.

We all would like to continue to report the news and be a trusted community resource. This paper is yours, not ours, after all.

We ask that you keep tabs on our website to see what’s going on; that you send us your news tips; that maybe there are some stringers out there who don’t mind learning and doing a little news reporting.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for us as community reporters. What started out as a death in a nursing home in Kirkland — the first coronavirus fatality in the country — has turned into a public health crisis, with the number of confirmed cases and deaths growing in King County every day. This island, although it has not seen a coronavirus fatality of a resident, has felt the effects of the pandemic. Churches have stopped meeting; gyms have closed; businesses have closed or scaled back to take-out only. It’s been tough for us at The Beachcomber to keep up with it all.

What we at The Beachcomber have learned is that newspapers have an important role to play, now, more than ever. In a public health crisis, you rely on us for up-to-the-minute information and we take that responsibility very seriously.

We hope that whatever the future holds for this beloved paper that has served you for more than 60 years, that it comes out the other side with a bright — and sustainable — future.

A great town deserves a great newspaper, and we hope to be back in full force, soon.

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