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A look at La Conner's future

I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

– Henry Thoreau, in “Conclusion” chapter, “Walden,” 1854

This issue is the 364th I have printed as the Weekly News publisher. It finishes my seventh year here. Next week, issue 365, begins my eighth year as owner of the La Conner Weekly News.

It has been a great run. “Best job ever” has long been my mantra. I am blessed to have found work that fits me like a glove.

More than one reader has praised the quality of the paper they read every week and expressed their appreciation that this little town has a newspaper that punches so far above its weight. The compliment is always returned, the reader thanked for their active participation as a citizen. It is the act of reading the paper and paying attention to the actions around you that keeps the heartbeat of democracy going.

Think of the gift you are giving yourself in this hectic, modern world. Reading a newspaper is a commitment to yourself. Taking up the paper you pause, reflect, rest, taking time to assess issues large and small affecting you and your neighbors.

Maybe you let your thoughts rest. You pick up the paper later that day or in the week and reconsider what is your relationship with the people and institutions on these pages.

Our local institutions: the government of the Town of La Conner, the school district, the Swinomish tribe, the library, the two fire departments – and the volunteering that fuels so much of the good work – you stay current with all of them through the reporting in these pages.

What will happen if the La Conner Weekly News closes after December? An essential part of the social fabric will be lost. Of these threads in this tightly woven cloth, only the Weekly News is a business generating revenue and profits to maintain itself.

This a vibrant, award-winning newspaper and a robust, financially strong business. Bought for $125,000, its sales have grown to over $280,000 in 2023. Financial success will be its future, too.

Now it is time to retire. Who will buy this newspaper? The need is for mid-career journalists to pick up this polished gem. Only new owners living in the area and taking up the mantle of publisher, growing this paper into its possible future by focusing on it exclusively, will adequately serve readers by providing a close critical eye on the governing institutions and myriad social activities.

A newspaper chain of any size will not commit fully to greater La Conner. Editorials will disappear. Local coverage will diminish. The office may close and production, subscriptions and ad sales run from a distant home base. The flavor and the uniqueness of this paper well be lost.

The newspaper sector of society is suffering because of predatory and cannibalistic acts of larger companies in the business of cranking out increasingly shallow and inconsequential editions.

The Weekly News is not distressed. This is not a distress sale. But if there is not a selling price that is fair to me, I will be disappointed and sad to close the paper. If the Weekly News closes, its readers and the larger community it serves may find it is distressed. The La Conner government, the school district, the fire departments, museums, service organizations, the Shelter Bay Chorus and area theatre groups ought to be sad – indeed distressed – that news and information about their activities and schedules will be much harder to disseminate into the community and recorded for the moment and for posterity.

What’s the alternative? Funding is not the difficulty. The money exists in this community. In the same manner that a new library was built and the Museum of Northwest Art is prospering after its recovery from poor management, local people can embrace and hold the future of the Weekly News in their hands. The solution is local: the ownership and management must be La Conner-based.

A new publisher and managing editor are waiting to be recruited and invited to interview to take up the legacy of the town with the longest continuous publication of a weekly newspaper in the state of ­Washington.

Tens of thousands of eager, component journalists, men and women with experience, integrity and strong democratic values, have lost their jobs in recent years. Twelve Everett Herald staff were cut last week.

I am reaching out to journalism departments and institutions across the country seeking my replacement. This is an effort requiring community support. The time to step forward is now.

The value of our success in moving the La Conner Weekly News into the future? Priceless.


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