Editor’s column | Nonplussed motto of the newsroom: ‘It’s always something’

This is the year that keeps on giving

Fifteen years ago, an off-duty police officer hung out in the newsroom of the Whidbey News-Times to ensure nobody killed me.

The reporters were delighted to have him, though he did his best to remain professional as we pelted him with rubber bands and buffoonery.

But Marcia Van Dyke, the publisher at the time, was genuinely worried and hired the mustachioed cop to keep the newsroom safe. She would later spin an enhanced yarn about the experience at the occasional cocktail party.

James Praefke, a Navy man convicted of charges related to explosives, had broken out of the brig in Bangor by casually strolling away. There was reason to believe he may not have liked a story I had written that quoted his soon-to-be ex-wife, who had been moved to a safe location by the Navy after the escape.

Yet the fact that an armed man was there to guard us from an angry survivalist with a penchant for grenades didn’t faze the newsroom. At a community newspaper, every day brings something new and, after a few years on the job, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Until this year, that is.

On a given day, a reporter might interview a U.S congressman, write a story about a duck in diapers and field a call from someone who was angry about a story but hadn’t actually read it — which happens a surprising amount.

At the time, 2005 probably seemed like a year that could never be topped. Hurricane Katrina was followed by Hurricane Rita. There was the war in Iraq, bombings, earthquakes and the Michael Jackson trial.

The pages of the News-Times were filled with a cornucopia of happy, serious and weird community news stories.

Voters finally passed a bond issue to build a stadium at Oak Harbor High School and the district started a hot lunch program for the first time.

A nationally known UFO expert investigated an epidemic of “half cats” being found in Oak Harbor and concluded extraterrestrials were up to no good. Horses were being attacked at night.

There were stories that were bigger than we realized at the time. Island County held an election entirely by mail-in ballot for the first time. The Navy announced that Growlers would be coming to the island.

Of course, 2005 has nothing on 2020. It seems fitting if Praefke, a human chameleon who has the record for being on the NCIS most-wanted list the longest, may finally be unmasked at a time when just about every face in the country is hidden behind masks.

It’s the year that keeps on giving.

More in Opinion

Rockin’ A Hard Place | The Rock got great help to take care of itself when needed most

We Rock dwellers enjoy the distance we have from America. It takes… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Letters to schools misguided but should spur reflection

Both the Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey School districts were recently… Continue reading

Melanie Bacon is and Island County Commissioner.
Sound Off: Until all are vaccinated, remain vigilant, patient

Every day I receive heartbreaking emails and phone calls from citizens who… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Offer of towering artwork should not be squandered

Oak Harbor has a once-in-a-lifetime shot at getting a bold, superlative and… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Regional reopening plan doesn’t work for Island County

It’s ridiculous that people can’t eat inside restaurants in Island County, which… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Passage of school levy is imperative, even during a pandemic

Voters who live in North Whidbey will decide whether to return to… Continue reading

Sound Off: Much of school district’s excellence due to levy ‘yes’ vote

Four years ago, North Whidbey voters approved a maintenance and operations levy… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Oak Harbor pro-Trump rally during Capitol siege poorly timed

An angry and violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters were still… Continue reading

Sound Off: County needs to respond, in public, in detail

This newspaper published an editorial on Dec. 29, “Public Health nurse exodus… Continue reading

Arny, Matt
Sound Off: Navy committed to environmental stewardship

Numerous area media outlets, including The Seattle Times, have published stories citing… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Public Health nurse exodus is cause for reckoning

It’s not unusual for the state Department of Health to assist a… Continue reading

My wish list to Santa Claus after a very hard Rock year

Dear Santa, This has been a Hard Rock year on Whidbey Island,… Continue reading