From the editor- You got mail. Or, maybe not


February 14, 2024

This modern world. It works against us humans, as individuals, families and communities and in people’s efforts to get along together and build a common place. The norms of living, of doing business, are you aware of how often they work against you?

The Weekly News is handicapped in publishing and distributing each issue to you by this modern world.

As subscribers, you are customers. The Weekly News’ responsibility is to deliver excellent customer service. Probably the most frequent call to the office is, “Where is my paper? Why wasn’t it delivered on time – or at all?”

This year a handful of subscribers have made that call. Two, the same week, were at addresses near each other, on Pleasant Ridge. I gave my usual answer: If your issue had your mailing label and gets to the La Conner post office, it is the post office’s responsibility to bring it to you.

Turns out, the Seattle post office is in the equation. Mail not delivered by La Conner postal staff goes to Seattle then Mount Vernon or Anacortes or each local post office, then to your home.

In the old days local mail stayed local. In the name of efficiencies, critical mass aggregation and cost savings, La Conner first-class mail now first goes to Seattle.

But what saves the post office money is not good for the local community, the Weekly News or democracy when a Wednesday paper is delivered the following Wednesday, seven days later. Old news is old news. Promoted events, including paid ads, are not effective. Merchants are more upset than readers when their Presidents Day promotion is seen after the sale is over.

The nation’s – the culture’s – priorities have changed, run over by the relentless drive to make more money faster. The biggest corporations, elbowing their way to first in line, pressure politicians to rig the game in their favor. For decades federal communications regulations have tilted toward mega corporations.

Not so when President George Washington passed the Postal Act of 1792 establishing the Postal Service. “The act ensured newspapers could be sent at low mail rates, which facilitated a free press across the new states,” it states on the National Constitution Center’s website.

Congress created second-class postage to favor newspapers so common people – even if they were predominantly white men – could more readily obtain news of the day.

The white postal trucks you see on the road Sundays? They are contracted by Amazon, delivering its packages to customers. That is an agreement reached by rule makers, just as raising periodical rates the last 50 years is a conscious decision by powerful people.

Now, in an age of instantaneous information, having the delivery of the local newspaper slowed down because of benign neglect by a government system atrophied and absent of a purpose of creating an informed citizenry is to hear more nails hammered into coffins carrying the death of small, vibrant communities.

Keep local news local. But news not delivered in a timely fashion, is not very valuable. A newspaper’s readers rightly seek fresh news, a commodity that quickly goes stale. Newspapers arriving days after the edition date may over time not be read. Subscriptions may not be renewed. Advertisers may take their business elsewhere, for the promise of a fair exchange, of getting ads in front of the community, is broken.

Democracy is about making decisions. It is about people gathering information to make informed choices – and not only about candidates on election day. Democracy is not about convenience, about Sunday delivery in a postal truck. If people desire and are satisfied with that, with your tax dollars at work so more stuff can be acquired more quickly, then our ever more commodified society will tilt toward what we can afford. And a newspaper arriving days late in the mail is a very disposable item.

And that freedom of the press, government watchdog, eyes of the people, the people’s mouthpiece? Maybe newspapers are a quaint, old, 18th century artifact, like powdered wigs, breeches and knee-high stockings, all out of fashion.

Two good questions: Who is your government serving? Who is it delivering for?

-- Ken Stern


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