Former Whidbey News Group co-owner and publisher Wallie Funk received a well-deserved honor this past week.
The Washington Newspaper Publisher Association presented a proclamation to Funk naming the organization’s Olympia News Bureau internship in his honor.
For those unfamiliar with Funk’s legacy, he bought the Whidbey News-Times with partner John Webber in 1960, and the two operated the business together until deciding to sell to Sound Publishing in the early 1990s. Over the course of 30 years, Funk was the gregarious, outgoing publisher with the editorial bent and was almost always seen with a camera hanging around his neck.
When Funk walked into a room, there was no doubt about his presence. With his distinctive, booming voice, Funk was an unmistakable presence and force.
Funk was instrumental in helping to define and document the community of Oak Harbor for more than 30 years. His column, “The Fish Wrapper,” was a chatty piece published on the opinion page, the names of people in the community in bold font, recognized for major or minor accomplishments, and everything in between. Politicians came to Funk for his endorsements. His photojournalism catalogue is now divided among museums and universities, with images that range from the bloody orca roundup in Penn Cove during the 1970s to Rolling Stones and Beatles concerts.
Funk understood that photos could tell a story every bit as well, or better, than the printed word.
Everyone in Oak Harbor knew Wallie. Even if they didn’t agree with him all of the time, there was no doubt he was respected.
In addition to owning the News-Times and South Whidbey Record, Funk and Webber previously owned the Anacortes American. Funk was the driver in the effort to bring Shell Oil Refinery to Anacortes during the 1950s.
Funk served as a president of WNPA. His financial contributions to the WNPA Foundation helped to get the nonprofit newspaper organization’s Olympia internship program off the ground.
“Olympia internships for young journalists have launched the careers of some of our region’s finest reporters,” said Wallie’s son, Mark Funk, in a WNPA article published this week.
“I am so very proud the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association is naming one of its scholarships for my father, Wallie Funk. He has been the program’s advocate for the program since its very beginning.”
A few years ago, Wallie was the recipient of our first-ever Best of Whidbey Publisher’s Choice Lifetime Achievement Award because of his lasting impact on this community and the many lives he touched, including mine.
It’s quite possible that, without Wallie’s influence, I wouldn’t have the newspaper career that I have today. While I was in high school, I was on the staff of the student newspaper, “The Seahawk.” Because Anacortes is his hometown as well, Wallie took a special interest in our staff when we came to Oak Harbor to have the paper printed. He would take us all out to lunch and share stories and ask us questions about where we wanted to go with our education.
After high school, I went into journalism. Funk always took an interest in my progress, asking my uncle and others about me over the years.
When I reached my senior year in the J-program at Western Washington University, I was hired as a news intern in summer 1986.
The following year, I was hired onto the News-Times staff full time.
Naming the WNPA Foundation scholarship for Funk is not only fitting, it is a hard-earned and well-deserved recognition of Wallie Funk’s impact on community journalism, not only on Whidbey Island and in Anacortes, but throughout the state the state of Washington.