I have experienced a wonderful time here on the island. From being welcomed into businesses to talk, to chats on the street, I have had some great conversations with a lot of you. While in these chats, I have been asked about the state of newspapers, and what we are going to do as circulation drops, and people stop buying the paper. My answer is the same each time: We aren’t just a news-paper. We are the news.
More accurately, we aren’t in the newspaper business, we are in the journalism business. Newspaper is a method to distribute the work we do, as is social media, email and news sites, just to name a few. These methods have and will continue to evolve. While newspapers once dominated the public’s preference, it is now far more fragmented. It’s our responsibility to match the needs of our audience and market. Much like Ford determining 2030 will be the end of gas fueled engine production, recognizing where your market is moving to, and being cognizant of that timeline is how you maintain your relevance.
So allow this to reassure each of you. We will continue to put out a newspaper product with our great content, in part due to this community’s tremendous embrace of the papers themselves. As long as people still like to unfold, turn and fold back their paper, we will continue to print and deliver it, but a newspaper is not the sum total of who we are. We are the headlines email you open each morning, we are the social media post you shared today and we are the websites you view to the tune of over 175,000 unique visits every month. My ask of you is to subscribe, and encourage others to as well. Whether you prefer online access to our content, a newspaper delivered to your home, or both, we are here for you. This information, and the hard work put into gathering it, is for you to be in the know about what is happening, or in some cases not happening here on the island.
Today, and every day that follows, just know that it is our job, and our goal to keep an informed public, and that your thirst for knowledge can never and should never be quenched. Methods to deliver that to you will continue to change as our world evolves, but the community’s need for local news will never go away, nor will our commitment to deliver the stories you need to know.
As a final request, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read about the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, please do. This bi-partisan bill in part sponsored by Washington State Rep. Dan Newhouse is currently in review with the ways and means committee in Congress. This bill provides incentives and rebates for subscriptions, provides credits to help hire and support the news staff, and provides tax credits to advertisers supporting local media. If this bill resonates with you, I encourage you to share by either calling or writing your support to Rep. Rick Larsen or Sen. Maria Cantwell, or a member of the ways and means committee.
RJ Benner is the publisher of the Whidbey News-Times, South Whidbey Record and Whidbey Crosswind.