An antidote to topical deserts | Journalist’s notebook


If you are reading this from a printed edition that you are holding in your hands, count your lucky stars. Because my friends, newspapers are quickly becoming an endangered commodity. The big cities and small towns of the United States are watching their only source of local news, obituaries and high school sports dry up and go. Many states, including my home state of Michigan, have communities that have no access to a newspaper, coining a new and disturbing phrase: news deserts.

Last week was National Newspaper Week (October 3-9), a week per year that focuses on the vital role newspapers play in our daily lives and our democracy. A role that is increasingly understaffed, underfunded and under attack.

According to a “Vanishing Newspapers” report by Penelope Muse Abernathy (2020), the United States has lost a quarter – 2,100 – of its newspapers, a number that includes 70 dailies and 2,000 weeklies or non-dailies. In addition, “at the end of 2019, the United States had 6,700 newspapers, up from nearly 9,000 in 2004”. points out that, according to Abernathy, the rate of closures, so far, has been around 100 per year.

“Abernathy’s research shows a trend that continues in the midst of a pandemic – newsrooms that shut down are mostly weeklies in small communities.

“[When that happens] communities lose their transparency and accountability [and ] research shows… taxes go up and voter turnout goes down.

Local newspapers have been part of the American tapestry for centuries. They relate births and deaths, successes and failures, victories and defeats. They provide a platform for the voiceless and control over the powerful. They keep us informed and challenge us to find out more. They are an integral part of our collective history.

San Juan County is fortunate to have three weekly newspapers – one for San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez, respectively. A team of four and a half people (three of whom wear multiple hats), work to give a voice to the community, reporting county news that affects us all and laying out news relevant to island life. We know we don’t always succeed. With such a small staff, it’s hard to be anywhere we need to be. This is where you come in.

We cannot do this without you, the community. Share your stories with us. Start a new business? Drop us a line and tell us what you’re doing. Did you attend a meeting on the island and learn something that you think the community should know? Call us, send us an e-mail. While we may not be able to act on everything, we will do what we can. We count on you to help us keep our communities informed.

Share your successes; Your concerns; your questions; and your vision for the future of the islands. Tell us how you are handling these days with the ongoing pandemic protocols – what are you most concerned about? Think of your local newspaper as both a tool for dialogue and a source of local information.

Being often on the other end of a call from a subscriber who has not received their newspaper or whose address needs to be changed, I know how valuable the Sounder, the Journal and the Weekly are. for our communities.

This week’s editions, for example, include stories about a new glass crusher on Orcas, a state grant given to Lopez to protect salmon habitat, and traffic disruption due to sewer work in San Juan. , as well as football scores and two film festival programs.

If we lost our island weeklies, something quite precious and vital to our communities would be lost.

Please take the time to consider the value of local journalism. Work with us to keep our Island newspapers published. Advertise when you can. Support the advertisers who do. Subscribe. Together, we will ensure that San Juan County never becomes a news wasteland.


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