I like the changes, too, mostly.
For one thing, we got a lot more writers involved. Writers are a transient lot, and I’ve had a few come and go within that time, but some of our new additions have endured.
Holly Glen Gearhart called me out of the blue last summer to comment on a series of editorials had written. During the conversation, I learned that she was disabled and new to the area, but had experience as a reporter and photographer.
Even though she didn’t end up settling on Monroe, she continues to drive to the Sky Valley on a regular basis to cover events at the East County Senior Center and other community happenings.
I know a large portion of our readers are seniors, and I’m really glad that we now have a writer who specializes in senior issues. I hope Holly’s Focus on Seniors series runs a long time.
This year for the first time I recruited a writer with no journalism experience.
My friend Chris Hendrickson had never written for a newspaper in her life. But as I’ve gotten to know her, I realize that of all the people I know, she is one of the most driven. She has that invaluable habit of over-preparation. If she wants to do something, she will throw herself into it totally, going way beyond where most people would stop.
I had just had a brief run of bad luck with experienced journalists who left shortly after arriving. I considered Chris’ astonishing determination, reasoned that it’s a lot easier to teach someone the newspapering trade than it is a work ethic, and asked if she was interested in writing.
I am glad I did.
I assigned her a short story, and she worked on it every day, sending it in two days early with a photo and impeccable facts. I got compliments on her interview skills, too, so I gave her the story on the Bush House renovation in Index. Let me just say that freelancing doesn’t pay much.
That didn’t stop her from driving from Kirkland to Skykomish and spending all of one Saturday touring the old hotel and meeting the locals.
Her story was insanely well-researched and quite interesting.
I hope she doesn’t burn out, working that hard, but I’m sure glad I asked her if she wanted to try reporting.
We added a Lifestyle page last year, too, that took the place of some very long-running special sections, namely Car Care and Home and Garden. Instead of running those two sections just twice a year, we thought, why not have a special section every week? I was skeptical at first because I was afraid we’d spend too much time on “fluff” and not enough on hard news.
But now I love our Lifestyle page. It’s a look at the things that make this community a great place to live; the mountains, parks, activities and restaurants of the area. We also still set aside space regularly to write about the home and garden issues specific to the region, helped immensely by former Monroe Monitor editor Howard Voland. It tends to be a visually appealing page, and fun to read.
And we finally got a new website last year, a vast improvement over the previous one. It looks a lot better and is easier to manage.
There have been a few tough choices, too; we had to raise the price of the paper for the first time in years to keep up with rising costs.
This year I hope to keep improving the paper.
I want to enhance our sports section by finding a way to include stats without gobbling up the whole page.
I want to get more young people involved in the paper. And I’d like to find ways to write about the communities that are harder to reach, such as immigrant populations, correctional officers and other prison workers, and people under 18.
We are going to continue to optimize the website, as well.
Your suggestions and requests are warmly welcomed.