Times Publisher reflects with gratitude
November 28, 2019
This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. Since deciding to purchase the Waitsburg Times my main objective was to ensure the continuation of publication which began in 1879.
Prior to owning the paper my only journalism experience was being an avid reader who appreciated the cultural and political relevance of print journalism. The Times is a paper of record, for Columbia County and Walla Walla County, and is vital to the communities that it serves. Papers of record are used to post important notices, record public hearings and provide events calendars which can encourage robust civic engagement.
I see local newspapers as especially relevant in the current world of cable news and social media where information and opinions fill our inboxes, appear on our televisions, and are posted to our Facebook pages. The difference I hope to offer with the Times is to offer well-researched, accurate news, presented to our readers by local writers and contributors.
This brings me to the rewarding part of the year, working with amazing and generous people. Before I made the decision to take on this project, I had one employee, Brianna Wray, who worked for me at Ten Ton Press. She is a printmaker, musician and artist who generously jumped into this new endeavor with full commitment. Turned out she is also a wonderful writer, photographer and graphic artist. She started at the paper before I did, learning the specifics of newspaper layout from previous owner Ken Graham, which made the transition much easier and more efficient.
My first hire as publisher was Dena Martin, who came back to the paper as Managing Editor. Dena’s experience as a journalist was instrumental in expanding our coverage and growing the paper. There are many things I miss about working with Dena, her calmness, confidence, and humor. I learned a lot working with her, including what I now consider the newspaper’s unofficial motto – ‘It doesn’t matter what I think.’ This seems simple, but it is the key to making sure our coverage at the paper is not biased.
Dena left the paper in September to take a job for the city of Dayton’s Planning Department. Fortunately for me, Tracy Thompson took over the writing and editing for Waitsburg and Walla Walla County helping to get the paper to press each week by writing, editing, fact checking, and providing last-minute updates, staying late into the night until it is complete and sent to the printers. Not an easy task, and it comes with a steep learning curve.
I was fortunate that the paper already had a talented and committed staff when I first arrived. Michele Smith has been the anchor of our Columbia County news coverage, and to reflect her importance to the paper she was named Editor for Columbia County. As a reporter, Michele has developed strong working relationships in her community to insure comprehensive coverage of government, cultural and business interests. She cares deeply that her coverage is fair, complete and well written. It is a joy to not only learn from her but to be inspired by her professionalism.
For me, Teeny McMunn is the glue at the office. She gives me much needed direction and focus as I continue to learn about the business side of the paper. All her efforts have made me appear much more in control than I feel. She covers everything from bookkeeping, payroll, advertising, and legal notices as well as providing tasty and entertaining weekly recipes. She keeps her eyes and ears open for new stories and opportunities for our advertisers. She does all of this with a personal style and flair that makes me smile every day I come to the office.
Eric Umphrey volunteered when I bought the paper to head up our sports coverage. I am always pleased to hear people compliment his articles which cover local, state and national sports. His coverage of Edgar Martinez’ induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame was a highlight from this year. There is so much he does for our paper that I was glad to be able to get him a coveted press pass (and one for his brother as photographer) for this historic event.
Our newest member to the team is Beka Compton, who provides so much knowledge of this area that I want to give her the nickname ‘Bekapedia’. She is always willing to take on a job or a story. Her commitment to this community goes beyond the paper and I look forward to working with her for a very long time.
Other contributors include Vicki Sternfeld-Rossi, who has been brightening up the pages with a series of articles about entertaining, which in themselves are very entertaining! Randy Charles has provided articles on home emergency care that every rural community should be highlighting in their papers. Photographer Bill Rodgers is always ready to contribute a landscape to remind us of the incredibly beautiful world we live in. Carolyn Henderson keeps local arts alive in her ‘Talk about Art’ articles. Bradley Trumbo’s articles are as interesting as his photographs are stunning. Who knew fish in the water could be so gorgeous?
All of this talent and ability has made working on the Waitsburg Times one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever gotten to do. I am so thankful for all of these people and for all the others who contribute to The Times.