In 1991, I was the editor who wrote and produced the Whidbey News-Times’ one and only Extra edition.
Few people are aware that there were two versions of that front page. The headline that appeared on newsstands would depend upon the decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission on whether to close Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The headline that we published proclaimed, “NAS Whidbey Spared” in giant letters. At that time, the News-Times was a part of the effort to keep NAS Whidbey from falling under the budget ax. We understood then, as we do now, what a vital and integral part of this community the Navy is.
That is why, within minutes of seeing an Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce email last week about a petition for people to sign in support of NAS Whidbey, my mind went to a News-Times ad page from about 25 years ago that allowed local businesses and community leaders to show their support for the base in some tangible way.
Because the Oak Harbor chamber is a sponsor of the petition, I immediately texted director Christine Cribb with my idea: We wanted to do a full-page ad promoting the online petition, obtain signatures from local base supporters and make our page available to Mayor Bob Severns to take to Washington, D.C., in March.
Christine was immediately on board, and we agreed that it would be a great partnership between the chamber and News-Times.
Very quickly, my idea for a support page was being imitated by another publication, and that’s flattering. The cause is a great one deserving of widespread community support.
I thought of this sponsorship page because I recalled just how important it was to community leaders in 1991 to demonstrate to federal officials and BRAC members the strong support for the base in the community.
Times have changed, Oak Harbor too, but local support for the base remains strong.
Though there is no federal budget ax currently being wielded over NAS Whidbey, as a business in this community, the newspaper understands that life offers no certainties, and complacency is unwise.
There is great support for our NAS Whidbey page, though a couple of businesses questioned my decision to charge for the sponsorships.
That decision is an ethical one — the NAS Whidbey page is decidedly an advertising message and not an editorial one.
Within our broad readership there are varied voices and opinions. In our news coverage of base issues — including jet noise — to pick one side, or muzzle dissenting opinions, would be tantamount to censorship, and one of NAS Whidbey’s most important roles is to preserve the rights and freedoms of all Americans, not just those that agree with us.
And it’s that kind of American spirit that shines forth in this special NAS Whidbey support on page 2 of today’s News-Times. If you agree with its message, please be sure to thank those who made it possible.
• Keven R. Graves is editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org