Reclaiming nine years of ‘missing’ newspaper history | Publisher's column

Somewhere in time, history got a little lost.

Nine years, to be exact.

But now it is found.

While researching past editions of the Whidbey News-Times for an upcoming column, I made a discovery related to the newspaper’s founding.

It became clear that, for some time, the newspaper has understated its age. Up until this past Saturday, our front page has shown we are on Volume 115, meaning the 115th year of publication.

In fact, the newspaper is 124 years old.

It’s conceivable how a mistake could easily be made as the newspaper was founded as the Island County Sun in 1890, consolidated with the Island County Times in 1894, and was published under various names, including Farm Bureau News and Oak Harbor News at various times in history.

However, the extent of the mistake is confounding.

One hundred and 15 years ago, in 1899, the Island County Times was already in its ninth year of publication.

Immediately I felt it important to reclaim those years.

It’s rare enough that a business should survive and adapt through a century of change, but for 124 years?

Think about it. That’s 124 years worth of publishers, editors, reporters, photographers, columnists, sports writers, ad sales, production folks, delivery crews, press operators and others.

If you wonder how times have changed, in the 1890s, transportation wasn’t as easy as jumping in your car and hitting the road. When visitors came to stay on the island with relatives, or Mr. and Mrs. McKnight traveled to Seattle, it was big news.

In January 1935, the Island County Farm Bureau News announced on page one that Island and Skagit counties wouldn’t have to shell out a penny to build a bridge at Deception Pass. Federal funds in the amount of $79,000 had been set aside.

By December 1960, under then-owners A. Glenn and Phyllis Smith, Prairie Center Mercantile was running ads in the News-Times selling pork roasts for 53 cents per pound and announcing, “Fred has a new shipment of lutefisk.” The front page carried the “Sheriff’s Log,” which reporter Fred Ward reported that a skin diver found a human skull at the ferry landing.”

During the summer of 1986, my first reporter byline appeared in the News-Times. Flipping through the late 1980s and early 1990s is like going through a time capsule.

Community is everything to those of us who work at hometown newspapers like the News-Times. It’s not where people turn for state or national news. We publish articles and photos that people might clip out and attach to the front of their refrigerator with a magnet.

People now rely on the wealth of history contained in our bound volumes, some filling gaps in their personal histories. What we publish is a reflection of the community at a given point in time.

That’s as true today as it was 124 years ago.

That’s why it’s important that we reclaim those “lost” years of the Whidbey News-Times — because we pay respect to our community when we honor its past.

Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times. He can be reached by email at kgraves@whidbeynewsgroup.com


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