Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with some Oak Harbor merchants at their businesses. Some are advertisers, some not.
The intent wasn’t to sell anyone advertising. I learned years ago — during a very brief stint at a local car dealership — that sales isn’t my forte. It’s something best left to the professionals.
These visits were an opportunity to meet business owners face to face and hear what they had to say about the newspaper, and to learn what issues are on their minds.
In downtown Oak Harbor, along Pioneer Way, I heard from business owners curious about what direction the News-Times is going. Over the past decade, the newspaper has changed considerably, and one business owner flat out said he felt let down by the newspaper. He wanted to hear that the newspaper cares about him, his business and the entire community.
One longtime advertiser pulled out a list of questions, and I did my best to answer them all.
What is clear to me: these are people who are, without exception, passionate about what they do, and about their community. They also want to support and love their local newspaper, but some said they believe the Whidbey News-Times has some work to do.
What I essentially heard business owners say is that they believe there’s been a disconnect of sorts between the community and newspaper.
Whether real or perceived, I listened, and I told them where I stand.
I believe the News-Times can do a better job. I think the newspaper has an obligation to cover the Oak Harbor community, and provide the kind of local coverage that some said has been lacking. It’s our jobs to document our history as it happens.
When I started as a reporter at the News-Times in 1986, then editor Fred Obee told me that he wanted to ask a graduating class if they had ever had their photo in the newspaper. Fred said his objective was to see every single student raise their hand.
That’s what I believe a community newspaper can do best — report on ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It’s not just about government officials and community leaders. It’s about the man or woman next door who has an interesting story to share. It’s about the lifelong volunteer, the amazing Eagle Scout project or the homecoming court.
What we can do as a newspaper is provide our readers with not only the hard news, but also the items that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will clip out and hang on their refrigerators or bulletin boards.
That’s what I believe your community newspaper should be.