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I think I was born with printer’s ink in my veins. When I was 3 years old, I sat on my dad’s lap for what seemed hours while he read the Tacoma News-Tribune from cover to cover. When I was eight, I created a newsletter for my neighborhood, wrote each copy by hand and sold them for a nickel each. As I recall, the biggest headline was about a wheel falling off a neighbor’s lawnmower.

I edited my high school newspaper in my senior year, got a journalism degree from Udub, and worked almost 20 years as a reporter, editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Then the ink in my veins dried up for awhile after I went into corporate PR for the rest of my career.

The money was certainly better but the fun of chasing news was sadly gone and I missed it.

When my spouse and I retired to the Rock in 2009, I was delighted to learn that the island had three newspapers: the Whidbey News-Times, the South Whidbey Record and the Whidbey Examiner. Within a few months, I had volunteered to write and occasionally edit for the Examiner, and for the past five years I have offered my take on the quirks and peculiarities of life on Whidbey in this monthly “Rockin’ a Hard Place” column — first for the Examiner until it folded and now for the News-Times.

I’m also a part-time proofreader here, because I still enjoy catching pesky typos whenever I can.

So, even in my eighth decade of life, the printer’s ink still flows in my venerable veins and the fun of chasing news and telling readers when they need to know — even when they sometimes hate it — still grabs me.

Last week, the News-Times won the top award for general excellence in its circulation class from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

Dear readers, that is no small accomplishment at time when the internet has taken away so much of a newspaper’s advertising and so many former newspaper readers waste hours wading through unedited, unverified and often inaccurate information on the Internet, then complain about “fake news.”

My hat’s off to my colleagues at the News-Times. You do amazing work under impossible pressure with limited resources.

You cover this Rock well, and I hope our readers appreciate it as much as I do.

I’ve heard some Rock dwellers complain that they’d like more news in the News-Times – they think the paper’s too skinny, and

I agree. But, unlike the fake kind, real news isn’t free; it costs a lot to report it, edit it, print it and distribute it. If you want more news in the News-Times, buy a subscription, support the businesses that advertise and encourage others to do the same. Don’t read it without paying for it.

Too many people on the Rock have no idea what it would be like if we had no trusted source for local news here. We would be left with no reliable place to go for information on local government, politics, crime, social and artistic activities, and sports.

If you have ever been involved in planning a nonprofit fundraising or other public event, I’ll bet you have sent an announcement to the News-Times, hoping it will get into print.

You know how important a couple of sentences in the paper can be to the success of your event.

But a free press isn’t free. The decline of local newspapers all over the country in recent years is both alarming and tragic. Our nation’s founders knew that unfettered access to trustworthy information is what keeps those who govern us honest.

That access is seriously at risk if a healthy local press disappears.

So, whether it’s understanding the reasons the community pool in Oak Harbor is always about to close or reopen, figuring out how much jet noise is too much in Central Whidbey, understanding why opioid addiction has exploded in this quiet, rural Rock, knowing what the alternatives are for more affordable housing, or just reading what the county commissioners talked about in their last meeting, here’s a news tip.

The best place to start is with a little printer’s ink on your hands from reading the News-Times.

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